1753 - 2014
Statesman, Soldier, Spy, Scientist
Adventurer, Writer, Philanthropist

Born Benjamin Thompson in the American colony of Massachusetts he led an adventurous
life travelling through many countries on two continents. Knighted by George III and later
ennobled by the Elector of Bavaria to become a Count of the Holy Roman Empire

Sir Benjamin Thompson's portrait aged about 30 years painted by Gainsborough.

Born in Woburn Massachusetts in 1753. Married society heiress in 1772 with one child a daughter Sarah born 1774. Thompson left his family for England in 1776.  His experiments with Gunpowder had him elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.  Served as a Colonel in the British Army and returned to the colonies in America on the British side during the War of Independence.  Returned to England in 1783 but seeking new adventures Thompson crossed to the Continent in the same year and ensconced in Bavaria part of the Holy Roman Empire. There he found favour with The Elector of Bavaria, who appointed him Colonel of a Cavalry Regiment and his aide-de-camp. However, whilst living in Munich he carried out much social work providing for the soldiers welfare. For his good work improving the social conditions of soldiers and the poor of Munich he was rewarded in 1792 by the Elector who made him a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. He chose as his title Rumford the town of his youth in Massachusetts.  As Count Rumford he was knighted in 1794 by George III for his services to King and Country.  Returning to England in 1796 he was reunited with Sarah his daughter. In that same year he founded and funded the historic medal that still bears his name.

After returning again to Bavaria this time accompanied by his daughter, it became a period when he suffered a long spell of ill health requiring recuperation in Italy. On their return to England in 1799 he became actively engaged in the foundation of the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London that received its Royal Charter in 1800.

His final move was to France in 1804 where he took residence in Paris, and made acquaintance with the wealthy widow of the illustrious chemist Lavoisier. They were soon married in 1805, but the marriage proved to be a disaster which resulted in a separation followed by a divorce in 1809. Rumford’s final years were spent in quiet solitude before his sudden death in 1814. His funeral was a lonely affair attended by only a few people. His daughter and ex-wife didn’t attend the funeral in Antenil Cemetery Paris.

Sir Benjamin Thompson - Count von Rumford

Rumford's scientific achievements were many, his experiments with the transfer of heat, several inventions which he chose never to patent, the redesign of the domestic fireplace, and his prolific writing of essays on a variety of engineering and scientific subjects.

Sadly after his death his life’s achievements were soon forgotten and his reputation and name moved into obscurity.

The Count Remembered

Sir Benjamin Thompson later ennobled Count Rumford has however been
remembered in more recent times for his adventures, social work, philanthropy,
and inventions in the three countries where his presence was most prevalent. 

Massachusetts  USA

His statue in Woburn Massachusetts


The Royal Institution in Abermarle Street London. the columns was added in 1838

The plaque was unveiled on 9th September 1999 at
168 Brompton Road London. It is to record that
Count Rumford lived at this address.

This comprehensive
record of the life of
Benjamin Thompson
1753 - 1814 is the book
written by G I Brown
and published in 1999
that happens to be 200
years after he was
instrumental in the
founding of the Royal

The foreward to the
book was written by
Susan Greenfield
who was Director of the
Royal Institution of Great
Britain in 1999 the time
of the book's publication


Bavaria   Germany

The street named after the Count in Munich Germany

The English Garden in Munich

1759 - 1795

Originally a derelict area of swampy

ground that was drained and intended

for use as a private garden.

However, after the intervention of

Thompson in 1789 it was transformed

into an open park similar in character

to Kew Gardens in London.

It was formally opened in 1790 and

later opened to the Public in 1795.

The Rumford marble memorial in the English Garden

September  2017