The rich are different, but George Fabyan was unique among millionaires.
This Gilded Age tycoon sponsored and inspired a “community of thinkers” who advanced science in such diverse ﬁelds as acoustics, cryptography, genetics, and physiology. Yet the whimsical Fabyan also tried to construct a levitation machine to defy gravity and spent millions trying to prove Sir Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays.
Fabyan changed how we wage wars and keep secrets, and how we transmit sound and design buildings. He created the first independent research center, and helped end World War I by breaking German codes and capturing foreign terrorists.
Despite eccentric habits, Fabyan acquired an impressive list of professional awards. No other businessman housed the American military’s center for code breaking, and virtually no science patron advanced research in such disparate ﬁelds.