The New International Encyclopædia/Rumford, Benjamin Thompson, Count
|←Rümelin, Gustav||The New International Encyclopædia
Rumford, Benjamin Thompson, Count
|Edition of 1905. See also Benjamin Thompson on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.|
RUM'FORD, Benjamin Thompson, Count (1753-1814). An American physicist, born at Woburn, Mass. He entered a merchant's office at Salem at the age of thirteen, at the same time studying medicine and physics. In 1772 he married a rich widow of that place, and was made major of militia by the English Governor. The distrust of the colonists at this period of the outbreak of the American Revolution drove him to Boston, and when Washington compelled the evacuation of Boston. Thompson was sent to England as bearer of dispatches. In London he won the favor of the Government and received an appointment in the Colonial Office and was soon afterwards made Under Secretary of State. Continuing, at the same time, his scientific investigations, he was elected, in 1779, Fellow of the Royal Society. On the resignation of North's Ministry he returned to America, and fought for the royal cause. At the end of the Revolutionary War he obtained permission from the British Government to enter military service in Bavaria, and in 1784 he was settled at Munich as aide-de-camp and chamberlain to the reigning sovereign. He rapidly rose to the ranks of major-general, councilor of State, lieutenant-general, Minister of War, and was created count of the Holy Roman Empire, when he chose Rumford (now Concord, N. H.), where his fortunes had begun, as his titular designation. In 1795 he visited London, where he published the results of his experience and the records of his labors in Bavaria. Having long and carefully studied the phenomena of heat, he set himself to devise a remedy for the smoky chimneys which were one of the greatest nuisances at that time in England, and discovered the principles upon which fireplaces and chinmeys have since been constructed. In 1799 he retired from Bavarian service and returned to London, where, at his instance, the Royal Institution was founded in the following year. He finally settled in Paris; devoted himself to improvements in artillery and illumination; founded a professorship in Harvard College of the application of science to the arts of living; married the widow of Lavoisier, and died at Auteuil, near Paris, after making many important bequests to the Royal Society of London, the American Academy of Sciences, and Harvard University. A memoir of Rmnford by George E. Ellis was published, with a complete edition of his works, in 1872 (Boston). Rumford is chiefly remembered for his experiments on the nature of heat. In 1798 he showed that the temperature of a body may be raised without heat being communicated to it as such; that the heat contained, for instance, in a metallic body may be increased by boring. On the basis of this fact he maintained, in his Enquiry concerning the Source of Heat which is excited by Friction (read before the Royal Society on January 25, 1798), that heat is not an imponderable substance, as it was generally assumed to he in those days.