Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford

Benjamin Thompson;Count Rumford;Reichsgraf von Rumford

1753 (Woburn, Mass.) – 1814 (Auteuil, France)

Rumford was devious, pompous, a philanthropist, philanderer and spy, whose dictatorial manner left him friendless. With Banks and Cavendish, he founded the Royal Institution, personally selecting Davy and Young as scientific lecturers (before leaving the R.I. abruptly, possibly embezzling its funds). He caused John Trumbull’s arrest, took Watt’s designs, crossed the English Channel with the horrified Gibbon, and worked with Volta while lying low in Italy. Lagrange, Laplace, Berthollet and Delambre became his companions in Napoleon’s Paris, where he contracted a disastrous marriage with Paulze. He bequeathed Davy his gold watch.