Cadwallader Colden and grandson Cadwallader Colden (1688-1776)
and His Grandson Warren De Lancey

Matthew Pratt (1734-1805)
Oil on canvas, circa 1772
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Morris K. Jesup Fund, 1969
Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

Colden, surveyor general of New York and later lieutenant governor of the colony, was a faithful friend and correspondent of Franklin. He was fascinated, throughout his long life, with botany, anthropology, mathematics, and natural philosophy. Colden was particularly attentive to the upbringing of his children and grandchildren. He spent years teaching botany to his daughter Jane, and passed his knowledge of natural philosophy to his son David. Around 1760, he composed a treatise for Peter De Lancey, Warren's brother, and sent another copy to his son Alexander; it summed up his views on the scientific knowledge he thought appropriate for his offspring.

Matthew Pratt's portrait expresses Colden's pride in his scientific pursuits, and is unusual in that through the inclusion of his grandchild it also emphasizes Colden's determination to transmit scientific ideals to his progeny. Pratt has placed Colden in a private space, clad in a mauve banyan of silk-lined damask, his arm gently encircling the standing figure of Warren De Lancey. On the table beside him are a globe, a book, and an unusual astronomical diagram that may relate to Colden's publications on gravitation.


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Title image: Terrestrial globe signed by J. & W. Cary, Courtesy Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress/ Washington, D.C.

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the Republic of Science
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