Dec ConnectionsThomas Jefferson Foundation


Morris Arboretum’s Connections Beyond Our Gardens – Talks on People, Plants and Place continues to present talks that are about more than gardening, all with a theme of connecting us to our natural, green world.  In November, attendees heard a lecture from Harris Steinberg of PennPraxis who spoke about visions for urban design in Philadelphia.


On Wednesday, December 4th at 3pm, attendees will learn about Thomas Jefferson and his passion for Nature from Keith Stewart Thomson, the American Philosophical Society’s Executive Officer.


Thomas Jefferson once wrote to a friend that politics was his “duty”, but natural history was his “passion.” Despite his demanding public life, Jefferson somehow had time to be one of America’s first serious students of fossils, botany, climate, geology, and anthropology, becoming a leading American scientific intellectual of his time.  Morris Arboretum’s Connections Beyond Our Garden speaker, author Keith Thomson will introduce attendees to Jefferson’s fascinating world, exploring the third president’s passion for natural history, and highlighting how it related to everything he did–as a farmer, as a philosopher, and as a citizen.  Author of more than a dozen books on evolution, paleontology, and the history of science, in recent years Thomson has focused more on writing for a popular audience.

Thomson is currently Executive Officer of the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin.  He is also emeritus professor of natural history at the University of Oxford and was President of Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences.

Keith Stewart Thomson graduated from the University of Birmingham (UK) in 1960 and then earned a Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard University in 1963. His dissertation was on the evolution of air-breathing at the transition between fishes and the first land animals.

His recent books include: The Watch on the Heath (HarperCollins, published in the USA as Before Darwin by Yale University Press) and Fossils: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press), both in 2005; The Legacy of the Mastodon (Yale University Press, 2008); A Passion for Nature: Thomas Jefferson and Natural History (University of North Carolina Press for the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 2008); and The Young Charles Darwin (Yale University Press, 2009) and Jefferson’s Shadow: the Story of his Science (Yale University Press, 2012). Thomson also has a regular column, “Marginalia,” in the magazine American Scientist.

The Connections Beyond Our Garden lectures are held at Morris Arboretum’s Widener Visitor Center at 3pm.  A reception with refreshments will follow Keith Thomson’s talk.  The cost for each lecture is $15 for Arboretum members and $20 for non-members, which includes admission to the garden.  Advanced registration and payment are required.  Please call 215-247-5777, ext 125 or to make your reservation.

The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is located at 100 East Northwestern Avenue in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.  The 92-acre horticulture display garden features a spectacular collection of mature trees in a beautiful and colorful landscape. The Arboretum includes numerous picturesque spots such as a formal rose garden, historic water features, a swan pond, and the only remaining freestanding fernery in North America. A new permanent nationally award winning exhibit, Out on a Limb – a Tree Adventure adds to Morris Arboretum’s allure by transporting visitors 50 feet up into the treetops on a canopy walk that requires no climbing.  The Morris Arboretum’s new Horticulture Center Complex has received Platinum Level LEED® Certification, the highest sustainability rating of the U.S. Green Building Council. For more information, visit