Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, Virginia, the third of ten children of a farmer and surveyor, Peter Jefferson, and his wife, Jane Randolph. In 1757, after the death of his father, Jefferson inherited 5000 acres of farmland and numerous slaves. A 1762 graduate of the College of William and Mary, he then studied law under George Wythe and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767. Jefferson worked as a lawyer for many of Virginia's most prominent families, and in 1768, began construction of his mansion, Monticello. In 1772, he married Martha Wayles Skelton, the daughter of planter John Wayles and Martha Eppes, with whom he had two children who survived infancy: Martha and Mary.
In addition to work as a lawyer, Jefferson represented Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and in 1774, he wrote a set of resolutions opposing the Coercive Acts. The next year he served in the Second Continental Congress and in June of 1776 was appointed to a committee to draft a declaration to accompany a resolution of independence from Great Britain. The committee chose Jefferson to write the document, and on July 4, 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson served in numerous other political roles, first in the new Virginia House of Delegates (1776-1779) and then as Governor of Virginia (1779-1781), member of the Congress of the Confederation (1783-1784), minister to France (1785-1789), and Secretary of State under President George Washington (1790-1793). From 1797-1801, he served as vice president under John Adams, and then was elected to two presidential terms, which he held from 1801-1809. During his presidency, the United States began and won the First Barbary War, secured the Louisiana Purchase, and banned the importation of slaves. After his presidency, Jefferson focused much of his attention on the founding of the University of Virginia, which opened in 1825, and on book collecting. His donation of approximately 6000 volumes to Congress in 1815 formed the foundation of the Library of Congress. He died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.