Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, and the Authority of Science
Whether or not Hemings and Jefferson had children together, misreported DNA and misused statistics have skewed the paternity debate, discrediting science itself.
Steven T. Corneliussen
May 6, 2008
Continue reading this essay in HTML or in PDF

June 8, 2009: Note re William Hyland's In Defense of Thomas Jefferson

Thanks for visiting. This site's initial purpose is to present, in both HTML and PDF, a long essay with the heading that appears above. Please note that the site and its author neither offer nor hold any opinion on whether or not Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson were parents together. And except for the little whimsical graphic showing a referee, the site makes little effort to stray from its medium: prose, not graphics.  For a general summary of the Hemings-Jefferson controversy, please consult Maura Singleton's fine article in the Fall 2007 University of Virginia Magazine and the letters that followed.

In my view,
this paternity debate is important, is likely to heat up again with the tenth anniversary of the 1998 DNA news, and often requires a referee. So entirely without official sanction, since there's no such thing for a situation like this anyhow, I've appointed myself to serve as a referee mainly concerning the debate's scientific dimensions.

The science in the debate is important, given that certain historians build paternity proof on a three-part foundation: historical evidence, DNA molecular findings, and a statistical study of the coincidences between Sally Hemings's conceptions and Jefferson's sporadic Monticello visits. If you read the essay, you'll find that the self-appointed referee has already called some fouls.

Maybe this Web site will evolve. I'm not sure. Right now, though, I want to post this essay that I've worked on for nearly a decade, off and on. I hope you will send comments, though in doing so I also hope you will please identify yourself with your actual name, not a cyber-name or nickname. Here's the e-address, which I'm trying to camouflage from discovery by Web-crawling, robotic, spammer-supplying e-address snatchers:

The word Comments and then the at sign and then Thomas Jefferson's two initials and then the word science and then the dot and then the extension org.

In other words, the e-address begins with the word Comments and corresponds simply and directly with the site's basic URL.

I'm a writer and media advisor working with physicists in Tidewater Virginia and in Washington. My other main history interest is Fort Monroe, Virginia, an under-recognized national treasure that's in danger of inappropriate development despite growing recognition of its importance in the history of liberty.

Thank you.

Steven T. Corneliussen
May 6, 2008