Jefferson was born at Shadwell, his father's home in Albemarle county, Va., on April 13, 1743. His father, Peter Jefferson, a man of legendary strength, was a successful planter and surveyor who gained minor title to fame as an explorer and mapmaker. His prominence in his own locality is attested by the fact that he served as a burgess and as county lieutenant. Jefferson later held the same offices. Through his mother, Jane Randolph, a member of one of the most famous Virginia families, Thomas was related to many of the most prominent people in Virginia.
Besides being well born, Thomas Jefferson was well educated. In small private schools, notably that of James Maury, he was thoroughly grounded in the classics. He attended the College of William and Mary--completing the course in 1762--where Dr. William Small taught him mathematics and introduced him to science. He associated intimately with the liberal-minded Lt. Gov. Francis Fauquier, a...