Person: Rittenhouse, David
David Rittenhouse was (with Benjamin Franklin) one of only two 18th Century American mathematicians.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- William Rittenhouse built the first paper mill in the British colonies in Germantown in 1690.
- Rittenhouse began to construct clocks, making a wooden one when he was seventeen, then a brass one a little later.
- Of course Rittenhouse lived through a difficult period with much of the fighting during the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763 taking place in Pennsylvania.
- Rittenhouse was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1768 and, based on calculations which he made, the Society made plans to observe the transit of Venus which was calculated to take place in 1769.
- Rittenhouse built one of these observatories at his home as well as constructing most of the astronomical instruments to be used in it.
- Rittenhouse continued to do excellent business from his shop where he made steady sales of surveying instruments.
- Not only did Rittenhouse have an outstanding reputation as the maker of surveying instruments, but also his expertise as a surveyor was very evident and he was in great demand in a land where borders were being defined and boundaries being surveyed.
- Rittenhouse served as City Surveyor of Philadelphia in 1774.
- With outstanding expertise in mechanical inventions, Rittenhouse was soon involved in organising the manufacture of armaments such as cannon and ammunition, chains to fortify the harbour, as well as gunpowder.
- Rittenhouse was, during this period, a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
- Following this, Rittenhouse again became involved in surveying the boundaries of Pennsylvania.
- Although he had been interested in mathematics from a young age, Rittenhouse only began to publish mathematical works in the 1790s.
- Rittenhouse was long associated with the American Philosophical Society and we noted above that he was elected to this Society in 1768.
- During these years Rittenhouse played a leading role in the Society, as librarian, as secretary, and as vice-president.
- After Franklin's death Rittenhouse was elected the second president and served in this capacity until his own death.
- Rittenhouse had suffered poor health during most of his life and he died at home.
Born 8 April 1732, Paper Mill Run, near Germantown, Pennsylvania, USA. Died 26 June 1796, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
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Astronomy, Origin Usa
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive