An American in Europe: The Life of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford

An American in Europe: The Life of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford

An American in Europe: The Life of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford

An American in Europe: The Life of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford

Excerpt

It falls to the lot of few individuals to acquire well merited fame by their own unaided exertions in four different countries. Such, however, is the record of Benjamin Thompson Count Rumford, a man still regarded with esteem in Bavaria, England, France and the United States of America.

As a scientist he will be remembered for his famous cannon-boring experiment in which he made the first determination of the mechanical equivalent of heat.

Whilst the majority of people accept without question the normal environment of civilization such as clothing, heating and lighting, Benjamin Thompson subjected each of these to scientific enquiry and as a result effected marked improvements. His enquiry into the best method of making coffee may be regarded as typical of his originality and scientific bent.

The habit of subjecting even the simplest of operations to scientific enquiry was but one of the many features of this remarkable man. We can note through his life, interwoven as it is with many unpleasant characteristics such as self- esteem and a good deal of personal ambition, a genuine love for the poor and the underdog. Whether they were soldiers in Bavaria, the poor in Munich or working men and artisans in England, Rumford sought means to improve their lot. It was some such motivation that led him to conceive and found the Royal Institution; a foundation that has played a remarkable part in the scientific life of this country. It may be that he builded better than he knew when the original . . .

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