Simeon De Witt 1756-1834
De Witt, a member of a prominent New York family, was surveyor general of the state for fifty years. His portrait was painted around 1804, shortly after his magnificent map of New York was published. A corner of the map is visible, as well as a telescope, terrestrial globe, and drafting instruments. Albany artist Ezra Ames has portrayed De Witt in a public role as surveyor general that gives great dignity to a profession that was filled with danger and adventure. For this portrait, Ames employed conventions used for men in public life, familiar to Americans from Gilbert Stuart's "Lansdowne" portrait of George Washington, exhibited today on the second floor of the National Portrait Gallery.
De Witt made surveying and cartography his life's work, but his interest in science was more extensive. De Witt was elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society in 1790. In 1807, he wrote to the society about his observations of a solar eclipse in June 1806 and also sent a painting documenting the eclipse (now lost) done by Ezra Ames.
Title image: Culpeper-type microscope/ Courtesy National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.