Virginia History Series
Historical Hall of Fame: Thomas Harriot (ca 1560-1621) was a scientist, historian and surveyer (mathematician).
Harriot (variously spelled as Harriot, Hariot or Harriott) was born in Oxfordshire, England, about 1560, the son of a commoner.
1577 he entered St. Mary's Hall, Oxford University, where he became friends with Richard Hakluyt and Thomas Allen. After receiving
his B.A. in 1580, Harriot moved to London and by 1583 had joined the household of Sir Walter Raleigh, serving as accountant, ship
designer and navigational instructor to Raleigh's seamen. In 1585, the 25-year-old Harriot served as cartographer [staff
scientist], historian and surveyor for Raleigh's second expedition to Virginia, which sailed from England on April 9 under the command
of Sir Richard Grenville. The group of 109 Englishmen arrived on June 26 in North Carolina's Pamlico Sound and settled on Roanoke
Island. After two months, Grenville returned to England, leaving Ralph Lane as governor of the small colony. During the following
year, Hariot wrote his Chronicle or Discourse of Virginia, a detailed survey of the area's natural resources and native inhabitants. In
1588, Harriot published an abstract of his extensive Chronicle [now lost] as A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia--the
first book in English about the New World, still considered the cornerstone of North American natural history. The German edition
of his report was published in Frankfurt by Theodor de Bry in 1590, two years after the London first edition. In it, Harriot presents
a vivid picture of this part of the New World, its natural resources and the habits and customs of the natives. The twenty-three,
full-page, hand-colored engravings, after originals by the Dutch artist Johann With, including the Indian village of Secot[an] displayed
below, make this work invaluable.