The teen-aged Benjamin Thompson was clearly excited to be working in Boston in 1769, not in his home town of Woburn or even the smaller port of Salem. He sketched his master Hopestill Capen’s building in his notebook, marking the shop where he worked and the dormer attic room where he lived.
Benjamin signed up for private lessons in French and “the Back-Sword” from a Scottish army veteran named Donald McAlpine, and drew fencers in his notebook. Then he ended up skipping half the French lessons.
Meanwhile, Benjamin was supposed to be working in Capen’s dry-goods shop. But according to an 1837 profile in The American Journal of Science and Arts:
Mr. Capen once told his [Benjamin’s] mother, that “he oftener found her son under the counter, with gimblets, knife, and saw, constructing some little machine, or looking over some book of science, than behind it, arranging the cloths or waiting upon customers.”According to his home-town friend Loammi Baldwin, Benjamin was already working on a perpetual-motion machine, and that’s bound to take up all of one’s time.
By the spring of 1770, Benjamin Thompson was back at his mother’s house in Woburn, having shown he was thoroughly unsuited for work as an apprentice. But he was on his way to becoming Count Rumford, one of the greatest scientists of his age.