Thomas Jefferson is known as one of the United States' founding fathers, and he was a true Renaissance Man. He became president in 1801, but he was also a scientist, an inventor, an architect, and even a philosopher. He made accomplishments in the age of those fields that are still remembered today – thought slightly outshined a little by his diplomatic prowess.
If you're sitting down reading this with a bowl of mac and cheese, then you can thank Thomas Jefferson for the noodles. If you're wearing an Apple watch, you can thank Thomas Jefferson for coming up with the pedometer function.
The founding father had his hand in many things, so let's take a look at just seven of his inventions that might surprise you.
Revolving book stand
First on the list of inventions is that of a revolving bookstand. This may not seem like any insane revelation nowadays, but remember, back in the 1800s, books were all people had to garner new knowledge from. Just like you have multiple tabs open on your internet browser, the book stand Thomas Jefferson designed allowed for multiple books to be viewed at the same time.
He essentially developed a turntable that held books on adjustable stands. It had five individual stands for the books and the user could swivel it to read a new passage. The stand also had the strange ability to be folded down into a cube, which, was a feature for some reason.
That design is actually reminiscent of an earlier invention, the Bookwheel, that was essentially the first "e-reader" for books:
If you've ever transferred food up a dumbwaiter, then... actually, I'd like to talk to you, because I've never met anyone that has.
While dumbwaiters have fallen out of fashion in the 21st century, they were a formerly perfect way to transport food and wine between floors. Jefferson designed the dumbwaiter system as a way for servants to transport goods throughout his house. His wine from the cellar would be placed on the system and the servant could pull some rope to move it between floors.
This wasn't the most impactful of inventions and it solved a fairly "rich person problem," but still, Thomas Jefferson did make great strides in the industry of inter-floor wine transport.
The great Ccock
The great clock is exactly that, great. It was a big clock invented by Thomas Jefferson.
That's about it... he made a giant clock for his workers that hung at Monticello with massive chains extending to the floor. When the clock struck certain times, a massive gong would ring that could reportedly be heard from three miles away.
What makes this clock Thomas Jefferson's own invention was that he designed the mechanics himself in a way that hadn't been done before.
The wheel cipher was a helpful tool developed by Jefferson for encoding messages with ease. It was a small circular device that had 36 wooden disks on a spindle. Each disk had letters of the alphabet in different orders. When arranged in different patterns, you could create a "key" and inscribe messages under a set cipher.
During the American Revolution, this device would've been used to securely transfer information between leaders.
No, Thomas Jefferson didn't invent the lie detector, but he did invent something called a polygraph. If you take a moment and think about the root of that word, you can determine that it means poly -many- and graph -writings or results.
These roots combined come out to describe a device that creates many writings. The Polygraph designed by Jefferson was basically one pen attached to another that perfectly mimicked the movements of the original. This meant that as someone wrote a note or a letter to someone, they could simultaneously write a copy with little effort. This would help the sender maintain proper documentation and aide in communication.
In essence, it was the first copy machine!
Thomas Jefferson founded America, he helped write the Declaration of Independence, and he invented Macaroni.
Essentially what Jefferson did was create a machine that could make pasta. It was a board with different holes spread about it that would produce small curved, hollow macaroni noodles as a crank was turned. This spead up the pasta making process, helping turn it from a largely hand-worked endeavor into a far more automated one.
As a result of his invention of this machine, this great thinker is often credited as the person who popularized macaroni and cheese in the U.S. However, that's unfortunately probably not true... but many still make the case for it!
In 1525 a french engineer Jean Fernel invented a small device that was able to count people's steps. Even before him, Leonardo da Vinci created a device that dropped stones into a bucket on set intervals to count distance.
Jefferson's contribution to the history of the pedometer involved largely improving on current designs and taking learnings from existing devices. In many different history books, he is credited as creating an improved pedometer design.
In reality, Thomas Jefferson probably did invent a new kind of pedometer that has been lost to time and history.