Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, American administrator, c 1810.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Etching. Count Rumford, also known as Sir Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814), was born in Woburn, Masachusetts, United States. He fled to England in 1776 during the American revolution and worked as a secret agent for the British army at the colonial office in London. Later, he travelled to Bavaria where he carried out various military, social and economic reforms, for which he was created a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. His involvement in science was wide ranging, but he is best known for his pioneering work on the nature of heat - proving the motion, as opposed to calorific, theory of heat. He put his observations to practical use in the 1790s, designing improved stoves, fireplaces and chimneys. In 1800 he founded the Royal Institution in London.