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Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford

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Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford

The world's smoky rooms and freezing homes were soon to be remedied with the birth of Benjamin Thompson Jr. Benjamin Thompson Jr. was born to Ruth and Benjamin Thompson on March 26, 1753 in the small town of Woburn, Massachusetts.1

Little is known about Benjamin Thompson Jr.'s family. What is known about his father is that he was born in 1729 and he married Ruth Simonds in 1752. We also know that Benjamin Thompson was the oldest of Captain Ebenezer's four children and died in 1755. Benjamin Thompson Jr.'s mother was born in 1730 and lived what was considered an uncommon life span of 80 plus years. Ruth and Benjamin Thompson were married for only a year when Benjamin Thompson Jr. was born. When Ruth Thompson was widowed late in 1755 she waited less than one year to re-marry. She married Lieutenant Josiah Pierce and they had four children together. Because of Benjamin Thompson Jr.'s young age, at his father's death, Lieutenant Josiah Pierce was to be his only father figure.1

Benjamin Thompson Jr. had little formal schooling, but taught himself algebra, trigonometry and astronomy. At the age of thirteen he was apprenticed to a store owner named John Appleton. Appleton's store was in Salem, not far from Benjamin's home in Woburn.4 In August of 1769 Benjamin Thompson Jr. was injured while making fireworks at Appleton's store. He returned to Woburn to recuperate. While he was there he conversed with his childhood friend Loammi Baldwin. Loammi was nine years older than Benjamin and was versed in scientific knowledge.

Benjamin and Loammi exchanged letters on the rays of light among other theories and interest of the scientific community. After Benjamin had recuperated from his burns Appleton did not have any use for an apprentice. This no doughtily was because of a no import clause he and other merchants had signed in the beginning of what would be the American Revolution. So Benjamin asked for a recommendation to give to Mr. Hopestill Capen a merchant in Boston. Benjamin was hired as an apprentice at Mr. Capen's store The Sign of the Cornfields. In Boston he took French and continued his fascination with learning. This apprenticeship was to last only two months.1 Upon return to Woburn Benjamin began the study of medicine under Dr. John Hayin.4 During this apprenticeship he spent time studying anatomy, surgery, and the chemistry of medicines.1 He also made surgical instruments for Dr. Hayin.4 Like the rest this apprenticeship ended soon and Benjamin was unemployed. He did not let his lack of employment sidetrack his studies. He attended lectures by Professor John Winthrop on experimental philosophy at Harvard with his friend Loammi Baldwin. Benjamin filled his free time with his own teachings in Bradford, Ma and later in Rumford, New Hampshire. In 1772 Benjamin Thompson Jr. married a rich widow named Sarah Rolfe.4

She was well connected in New Hampshire and introduced Benjamin to the governor who appointed him a major in the New Hampshire militia.5 The couple lived in Concord, New Hampshire until 1774, just before the beginning of the Revolution. Benjamin was loyal to the British and was forced to flee, leaving his wife behind.4

Now behind British lines Benjamin experimented with gun powder and in 1781 published his work in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Benjamin Thompson Jr. moved to London and was knighted by King George III in 1784. Benjamin soon moved to Bavaria and reorganized the military and established workhouses for the poor. He also discovered a recipe for nutritious soup that he fed to the poor, and was later called Rumford soup. Benjamin Thompson Jr. was named count of the Holy Roman Empire in 1791 and was known as Count Rumford. Count Rumford then spent seven years working on the nature of heat. He proposed that heat was not a substance like liquid, but was produced by the motion of particles. He wrote about this in 1798 in a paper titled, An Experimental Enquiry Concerning the Source of the Heat which is Excited by Friction.5

He moved to Paris in 1802 where he married the widow of a French chemist named Lavoisier. He had been separated from his first wife 16years when she died in1792.While playing with the heat properties

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