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David Rittenhouse was a renowned American astronomer, inventor, watchmaker, mathematician, surveyor and public official, born on April 8, 1732 and died on June 26, 1796. Rittenhouse was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the first director of the United States Mint.
Rittenhouse was born near Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a small town called Rittenhouse Town, located along a stream called Paper Mill Run, a small tributary, stream itself from Wissahickon Creek. When his uncle, a Philadelphia carpenter died, he left a set of tools and books with which Rittenhouse began his career as an inventor. At a young age, Rittenhouse showed a high level of intelligence by creating a scale model of his grandfather’s paper mill. He was self-taught and from a very early age showed great ability in science and mathematics.
Rittenhouse was among the first to build a telescope used in the US His telescope, which used natural spiderweb to form the reticle, used it to observe and record part of the transit of Venus in the sun on March 3. June 1769, as well as the atmosphere of the planet.
In 1784, David Rittenhouse and surveyor Andrew Ellicott completed the unfinished Mason-Dixon Line (which delimits several US states) in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, five degrees in length from the Delaware River.
In 1813, Rittenhouse’s nephew William Barton published a biography, Memoirs of the life of David Rittenhouse. The former President of the United States Thomas Jefferson commissioned six copies directly from the author.
House of David Rittenhouse around 1919.
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