Has anyone read Longitude? It's the magnificent story of John Harrison, a self educated clockmaker who, single-handed, solved one of the greatest problems of the eighteenth century, fighting an arduous battle against the establishment as he did so.
There is something about a true story which grips the soul, and if the story features an obscure genius from whom the greatest scientists of the day attempt to steal ideas, then all the better.
It's well told, exciting and will teach you all sorts of things about the dear old Earth on which we sit. Watch out for the illustrated version.