Before leaving on the legendary Lewis and Clark Expedition, Meriwether Lewis was trained and tutored by some of the most accomplished scientists in America.
Jefferson's Dream of DiscoveryThomas Jefferson
had long been concerned about the Pacific Northwest. Supposedly he had heard, while serving as an envoy in Paris, that the French intended to explore that part of the world. While the French expedition was purported to be purely scientific, Jefferson, and others, suspected it might lead to colonization on the west coast of North America.
As early as 1792 Jefferson expressed interest in having the American Philosophical Society fund an expedition to explore the northwest. The expedition was never launched.
Meriwether Lewis travels to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to meet with surveyor Andrew Ellicott, who teaches him to use astronomical instruments to plot positions. During the planned expedition to the west, Lewis will use the sextant and other tools to chart his position.
Ellicott was a noted surveyor, and had earlier laid surveyed the boundaries for the District of Columbia. The fact that Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis to study with Ellicott indicates the serious planning Jefferson put into the expedition.
May 1803Lewis stayed in Philadelphia to study with Jefferson's friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush. The physician gave Lewis some instruction in medicine, and other experts taught him what they could about zoology, botany, and the natural sciences. The purpose was to prepare Lewis to make scientific observations while crossing the continent.
July 4, 1803Jefferson officially gave Lewis his orders on the Fourth of July.
July 1803At Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), Lewis visits the US Armory and picks up some muskets and other supplies he will need on the journey.
August 1803August 1803: Lewis had designed a 55-foot long keelboat which was constructed in western Pennsylvania. He takes possession of the boat, and begins a journey down the Ohio River.
October-November 1803Lewis meets up with his former Army colleague Clark, whom he has recruited to share command of the expedition. They also meet up with other men who have volunteered for the expedition, and thus form the "Corps of Discovery."
December 1803Lewis and Clark decide to stay in the vicinity of St. Louis through the winter, and stock up on supplies.
In 1804 the Corps of Discovery assembled and began its westward journey.