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Benjamin Thompson Rumford, Count

Rumford, Benjamin Thompson, Count, 1753–1814, American-British scientist and administrator, b. Woburn, Mass. In 1776 he went to England, where he served (1780–81) as undersecretary of the colonies, conducting significant experiments with gunpowder in his spare time. Later he entered the service of the elector of Bavaria as an administrator. He was knighted in 1784 and in 1791 was created count of the Holy Roman Empire. He chose his title from the name of the town Rumford (later Concord), N.H., where his wife was born. Returning to England (1795), he introduced improved methods of heating and cooking, and developed a more accurate theory of heat. In contrast to the prevalent belief that heat was a substance, he presented, in a paper (1798) to the Royal Society, the theory that heat was produced by the motion of particles. He founded the Royal Institution in England, established the Rumford medal of the Royal Society, and founded the Rumford professorship of chemistry at Harvard.

See biographies by E. Larsen (1953) and W. J. Sparrow (1964).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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