Rumford , Benjamin Thompson, Count

Rumford , Benjamin Thompson, Count
(1753–1814) American–British physicist
Benjamin Thompson was the son of a farmer from Woburn, Massachusetts. He started his career apprenticed to a merchant but was injured in a fireworks accident and moved to Boston. In 1772 he married a rich widow and moved to live in Rumford (now Concord, New Hampshire). When the American Revolution broke out, he took the English side and spied for them. By 1775 the hostility of his countrymen toward him had grown to such a pitch that he was forced to sail to England, leaving his wife and daughter behind. Once in England, his opportunist nature quickly raised him to the position of colonial undersecretary of state but, with the end of the American Revolution, he moved to Bavaria.
Here he rose rapidly to high government administrative positions and initiated many social reforms, such as the creation of military workhouses for the poor and the introduction of the potato as a staple food. In 1790 he was made a count in recognition of his service to Bavaria, taking the name of his title from the town of Rumford, New Hampshire.
It was in Bavaria that he first became interested in science, when he was commissioned to oversee the boring of cannon at the Munich Arsenal. Rumford was struck by the amount of heat generated and suggested that it resulted from the mechanical work performed.
According to the old theory of heat, heat produced by friction was caloric ‘squeezed’ from the solid, although it was difficult to explain why the heat should be released indefinitely. Rumford, in his paper to the Royal Society An Experimental Enquiry concerning the Source of Heat excited by Friction (1798), suggested the direct conversion of work into heat and made quantitative estimates of the amount of heat generated. It was suggested that the heat came from the lower heat capacity of the metal turnings, although Rumford could discount this by using a blunt borer to show that the turnings produced were not important. Another objection – that the heat came from chemical reaction of air with the fresh surface – was disproved by an experiment of Humphry Davy (1799) in which pieces of ice were rubbed together in a vacuum. The idea that heat was a form of motion replaced Lavoisier's caloric theory over the first half of the 19th century.
Rumford returned to London in 1798 and there began work on a series of inventions, including a kitchen stove, a photometer, and an oil lamp. He also advocated the standard candle for luminosity measurement. More lastingly, he established the Royal Institution of Great Britain (1800), introducing Davy as director. He went to France in 1804 and settled in Paris, where he married Lavoisier's widow. The marriage was unhappy and ended after four years (Rumford is said to have suggested that Lavoisier was lucky to have been guillotined). Rumford himself appears to have been a disloyal and unappealing character, although at the end of his life he left most of his estate to the United States.

Scientists. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rumford, Benjamin Thomson, Count — Rumford , Benjamin Thompson, Count …   Scientists

  • Benjamin Thompson — For other people named Benjamin Thompson, see Benjamin Thompson (disambiguation). Benjamin Thompson Born March 26, 1753 …   Wikipedia

  • Benjamin Thompson (disambiguation) — Benjamin Thompson is the name of:* Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (1753 1814), Anglo American physicist and inventor * Benjamin Thompson (politician) (1798 1852), US congressman from Massachusetts * Benjamin Thompson (farmer) (1806 1890)… …   Wikipedia

  • Benjamin Thompson — Sir Benjamin Thompson, Reichsgraf von Rumford (* 26. März 1753 in North Woburn, Massachusetts; † 21. August 1814 in Auteuil bei Paris) war Offizier, Politiker, Experimentalphysiker und Erfinder und hatte bedeutenden Anteil an der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Benjamin Thompson House-Count Rumford Birthplace — Rumford, Count, Birthplace U.S. National Register of Historic Places U.S. National Historic Landmark …   Wikipedia

  • Benjamin Thompson — noun English physicist (born in America) who studied heat and friction; experiments convinced him that heat is caused by moving particles (1753 1814) • Syn: ↑Thompson, ↑Count Rumford • Instance Hypernyms: ↑physicist …   Useful english dictionary

  • Rumford (town), Maine — Rumford is a town in Oxford County, Maine, United States. The population was 6,474 at the 2000 census. Rumford is home to both an important paper industry and the Black Mountain of Maine Ski Resort.HistoryOriginally called New Pennacook… …   Wikipedia

  • Rumford — can refer to one of the following:People* William Byron Rumford, California politician * Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count RumfordPlaces* Rumford (crater) * Rumford (town), Maine * Rumford, New Hampshire, former name of Concord, New Hampshire *… …   Wikipedia

  • Count Rumford — Sir Benjamin Thompson, Reichsgraf von Rumford (* 26. März 1753 in North Woburn, Massachusetts; † 21. August 1814 in Auteuil bei Paris) war Offizier, Politiker, Experimentalphysiker und Erfinder und hatte bedeutenden Anteil an der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rumford fireplace — The Rumford fireplace is a tall, shallow fireplace designed by Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, born 1753 in Woburn, Massachusetts, an Anglo American physicist who was known for his investigations of heat.Rumford applied his knowledge of… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.