Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Revising the Declaration of Independence

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Revising the Declaration of Independence

Article excerpt

Exploring Science and History With the Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson was one of the best-known citizen scientists of his time (see "Right to the Source" in the Summer 2015 issue). It's perhaps appropriate, then, that science has allowed the Library of Congress to gain insights into Jefferson's thinking about the importance of citizenship.

One of the Library's greatest treasures is a document that Jefferson described as his "original rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence, a statement adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776 declaring that the 13 American colonies would no longer be ruled by Great Britain. This draft, composed by Jefferson and then revised by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and others, provides fascinating evidence of the lively debates and evolving ideas that informed the founding of the United States.

Jefferson's draft has been in the collections of the Library of Congress for nearly a century and has been examined by scholars for many years more. However, even after all those years, this unique artifact still had more to tell us about its creator's thinking. By conducting hyperspectral imaging of the document--a technology originally developed for military and agriculture use--scientists in the Library's Preservation, Research, and Testing Division confirmed past speculation that Jefferson had made an interesting correction while writing the document. …

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