Science: Insufferable Genius

Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford by the grace of Karl Theodor, Elector of Bavaria, was an arrogant, auburn-haired New England dandy with a taste for rich widows and a talent for cultivating royalty. Egotistical and a thoroughgoing snob, he deserted the colonies during the American Revolution and went into the pay of the British. But for all his faults, he was a remarkable scientist. In a bright, admiring new book, An American in Europe (Rider & Co., London), British Journalist Egon Larsen celebrates the 200th birthday of "the insufferable genius."

Fireworks & Philosophy. A merchant's apprentice in Salem, Mass., young Ben Thompson had...

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