I met tycoon and amateur scientist Alfred Lee Loomis in 1954 as a postdoctoral researcher working with his son Farnie. After a cordial introduction, Alfred peered over my shoulder, watching me plot growth rates of freshwater hydra. "Growth dynamics are pretty universal," he said. "In the investment business I noticed that around World War I; railroads had reached stationary phase, whereas automobiles were just taking off logarithmically. Around 1928, we could see that the log phase for most of our investments was somewhat erratic. So we began selling most everything except utilities. Then I could devote full time to enjoy my laboratory at Tuxedo Park [NY]."
At the moment it did not dawn on me how extraordinary a man Farnie's father was. I soon learned that he was the Alfred Lee Loomis, a secretive, philanthropic, and politically connected man, who had convinced the U.S. government...