Thomas Harriot 400th Conference Hears About First Colony Foundation Research

An international group of scholars and history buffs learned about English scientist Thomas Harriot’s participation in the first English colony at Roanoke Island from 1585-1586 when they attended a conference sponsored by East Carolina University’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences from April 1-4, 2009.

Although 2009 marks the quadricentennial of Harriot’s pioneering use of the telescope for astronomy, his time on the American coast as part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s colony was not forgotten. ECU’s Dr. Larry Tise invited FCF to participate in telling about Harriot’s work at Roanoke Island.
First day presentations at Morehead Planetarium of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were pleasantly interrupted when FCF board member and UNC faculty member Brent Lane presented renowned North Carolina historian and fellow board member William S. Powell with a cake to honor his 90th birthday in late April. Brent had a second cake for Bill’s wife and longtime FCF friend Virginia. The cakes were decorated with John White illustrations of a man and woman from Raleigh’s Roanoke. The Powells attended the entire conference from Chapel Hill to Raleigh to Greenville to Manteo.

At ECU’s Joyner Library in Greenville, Nick Luccketti gave a PowerPoint presentation on “How Thomas Harriot Saved Jamestown,” which emphasized the importance of copper and the copper trade at both early Roanoke and Jamestown.

On Roanoke Island at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, FCF Board Member Tom McDonald gave a talk on his lifelong love of Roanoke Island archaeology and showed some of his collection of beach finds at the Lindsay Warren visitor center. Nick Luccketti and Phil Evans gave a quick guided tour for conference attendees, including some of Brent’s UNC students, to the site of the archaeology of the Thomas Harriot and Joachim Gans science center at Fort Raleigh and to the FCF 2008 dig site on the Thomas Harriot Nature Trail.


Phil Evans
First Colony Foundation