1753-1814

Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count von Rumford

Location: Third Floor, West Wing, North Wall, Sequence 1

Source: Fogg Art Museum

Sponsor: Gary J. Blanchard
John L. McCracken


He is best known for his experiments on heat and friction, which largely dispelled the notion that heat is a material substance (caloric) and is instead kinetic energy (motion). Rumford experimented with gunpowder, measured thermal conductivities, heat capacities and surface tensions. His many inventions included improved chimneys, a double boiler, a drip coffee pot and he introduced the potato as a staple food. Though born in Massachusetts, he was a Royalist, fled to England in 1776, was knighted by George III and founded the Royal Institution in London. A civil service position in Bavaria led to his title Count Rumford (the name, at the time, of Concord, NH).