The Count of Concord

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About the book

Franklin Roosevelt once declared that the three most impressive minds in American history belonged to Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Thompson. Why Benjamin Thompson? Because Benjamin Thompson, a.k.a. Count Rumford of the Holy Roman Empire, was a true Renaissance man: a prolific inventor, a military genius, a diplomat, a physicist, a gardener and city planner and notorious Don Juan. Born in Woburn, Massachusetts, in 1753, he chose the wrong side in the American Revolutionary War, and so was forced to make his name—as well as his fortune, his experiments with heat transmission, his improvements in the coffee pot and carriage wheels and fireplace construction—abroad.

Like the female narrator of his novel, acclaimed author Nicholas Delbanco spent decades studying this complex figure who is virtually absent from our history books.

The Count of Concord is a literary event: a masterpiece by one of our country’s most accomplished novelists about one of our least-known geniuses.

Praise for The Count of Concord

“Once in a while you sense that a novelist has found the subject, character, time, and place he was born to write about. Delbanco’s The Count of Concord is that kind of book. He’s brought his entire array of amazing gifts into play and has written a wonderfully sad, funny, bawdy, and intellectually adventurous novel.” —Russell Banks

“Like Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, or John Banville’s Doctor Copernicus, this brilliantly written novel—by turns wrenching, antic, and deep—marvelously illuminates a complicated scientist’s life and times.” —Andrea Barrett

“What a story. Benjamin Thompson, a.k.a. Count Rumford, is one of the great American characters—like Gatsby, but before his time, he reinvents himself, then sets about inventing everything else, including soups, fireplaces, social welfare reform, landscape architecture—you name it. Our hero has a certain problem in regard to loyalty, and virtue is somewhat alien to him, but he is a real character, a man of stature who, as a near-fiction himself, belongs in a novel. Nicholas Delbanco has done us a wonderful service in finding and recounting this American’s life. And it’s all true! Or not.”—Charles Baxter