Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States of America, was an architect, a philosopher, a Deist and an impeccable prose stylist. His passionate appeal to dissolve ties with Englandâ€”the Declaration of Independenceâ€”led the early colonies to war and ultimately freedom. As president, he earned respect for his sound principles and industrious nature, though his private life has been subjected to intense scrutiny.
Despite his familyâ€™s status, he was grounded. History Empire writes, â€œThere were very few things he asked others to do that he wasnâ€™t willing to do himself.â€ His curiosity and diligence inspired hands-on learning in many fields, including archeology before it was a science.
At the college of William & Mary, Jefferson studied the Scottish Enlightenment, blending his passions for law, philosophy and science. He would draw from his lessons in later years in his â€œtask of nation-building,â€ The History Channel reports. Much later he founded a college of his own, The University of Virginia.
After graduation he pursued law, and in his 20s began building his home Monticelloâ€”Italian for â€œlittle mountainâ€â€”in Charlottesville, Va., in the Palladian style heâ€™d adopted from the French.
In 1772 he married Martha Wayles Skelton, a 23-year-old widow, who doubled his land holdings. She died 10 years later in childbirth. According to the American Memory Project, only two of his six children with Martha lived to adulthood.