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Rittenhouse, David (1732-1796)

Rittenhouse, David (1732-1796), American clockmaker, mathematician, and astronomer, born in Roxborough, Pennsylvania. Rittenhouse displayed an early interest in mathematics and similar studies. When he was 12 years old he inherited the mathematical library and tools of a deceased uncle, and without much instruction he made clocks and instruments as an occupation, establishing himself in Norristown, Pennsylvania. The excellent quality of his clocks and his knowledge of astronomy established his reputation. In 1763 Rittenhouse was commissioned by the Pennsylvania government to survey and determine the first part of what became the Mason-Dixon Line, using surveyor's instruments of his own making. Later he was employed to do survey work on several other state boundaries. In astronomy he calculated the transit of Venus in 1769 and later made a successful observation of the planet from his Norristown observatory. In 1770 Rittenhouse moved to Philadelphia where he was elected to the provincial legislature in 1775. At the outbreak of the American Revolution (1775-1783) he was a member of the Philadelphia Committee of Safety, becoming its president in 1776. He was also a member of the convention to form the Pennsylvania state constitution and served as state treasurer from 1777 to 1789 and vice provost and professor of astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania from 1779 to 1782. Rittenhouse contributed many papers to the American Philosophical Society and in 1791 became its president, succeeding Benjamin Franklin. The Royal Society of London elected him a fellow in 1795. He was the first director of the United States Mint (1792-1795).

Note: Article fails to mention two of David Rittenhouse's greatest inventions; the chromatic (correction) lens and the thermodynamic compensation pendulum.

Bradford, William (1663-1752)

Bradford, William (1663-1752), American printer, born in Barnwell, Leicestershire, England. With other Quakers he immigrated to Philadelphia in 1682. Three years later he established the first printing press there, and in 1690 he, William Rittenhouse, and others built a paper mill, the first in America, on the Schuylkill River. In 1692 Bradford was arrested and tried by the authorities for printing the work of the Scottish missionary George Keith, which was condemned as “seditious libel.” Bradford was not convicted, but his press and publications were confiscated. He moved to New York in 1693 and in the same year established the first press in that colony. He was long the only printer in New York and held the office of public printer for 50 years. On October 16, 1725, he began the first newspaper in New York City, and the fifth in America, the New York Gazette. His son, Andrew Sowles Bradford, published in 1719 the first Pennsylvania newspaper, the American Weekly Mercury. Andrew's nephew, William Bradford, voiced his opposition to the Stamp Act and other British measures in the Weekly Advertiser or Pennsylvania Journal, which he established in 1742; still later, he was chosen the official printer of the Continental Congress.

Back | See also: Meteor Shower.