Sex and the Scientist

The Indecent Life of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (1753–1814)


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About the Book

One of the preeminent natural philosophers of the Enlightenment, Benjamin Thompson started out as a farm boy with a practical turn of mind. His inventions include the Rumford fireplace, insulated clothing, the thermos, convection ovens, double boilers, double-paned glass and an improved sloop. He was knighted by King George III and became a Count of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Thompson’s popularity with women eclipsed his achievements, though. He was married twice and had affairs with many other prominent women, including the wife of Boston printer Isaiah Thomas and that of a doctor who would crew the first balloon to cross the English Channel. He even fathered a child by the court mistress of the Prince Elector and had affairs with several other German noblewomen. Drawing on Thompson’s correspondence and diaries, this book examines his friendships and romantic relationships.

About the Author(s)

Jane Merrill has published in 50 national magazines and has written books on fashion, lifestyle, and eighteenth century culture. She lives on the St. George Peninsula in Maine.

Bibliographic Details

Jane Merrill

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 258
Bibliographic Info: 43 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6592-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2917-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Dates in the Life of Benjamin Thompson ix
Author’s Note xi
Preface 1
1. The Apprentice (1753–1770) 7
2. The Young Schoolmaster (1770–1776) 15
3. Thompson and the Wentworths (1772–1775) 25
4. The Royalist and the Printer’s Wife (1776–1779) 33
5. The Affair of the Letters and Dr. Jeffries’ Wife (1776–1779) 45
6. Advice from General Burghausen’s Wife (1784) 59
7. Honors and Enterprises (1784–1790s) 66
8. The Highborn Sisters (Mid–1780s) 79
9. An Italian Idyll on Which He Met Lady Palmerston (1793–1794) 89
10. Educating Sally (1794–1796) 102
11. With Sally in Munich (1796–1798) 112
12. The Stories Portraiture Tells (1800s) 127
13. Leaving London and Paris Opens Its Arms (1801–1802) 137
14. Pursuing Madame Lavoisier (November 1801) 148
15. Engaged (circa February 1804) 155
16. A New Method of Spending Time (October 1805) 161
17. Boiling Over (1806–1809) 168
18. Single Again (1809) 174
19. Victoire (Circa 1809) 183
20. Children on Both Sides of the Atlantic (Mid–19th Century) 200
Epilogue: “The Most Sublime of All Affections” 213
Afterword: Experiments and Inventions 223
Chapter Notes 233
Bibliography 241
Index 243