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Count Rumford: Loyalist, Renowned Scientist

Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford:  Loyalist, Renowned ScientistBenjamin-Thompson-oil-on-canvas-British-1785_sm-248x300

A portrait of Benjamin Thompson, one of the most prominent scientists of the late 18th century, will be exhibited in the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown® galleries to help tell the story of Loyalists.  Loyalists were colonists who chose for a variety of reasons to remain loyal to the British crown instead of supporting the Patriot cause.

Thompson was born in Woburn, Massachusetts, in 1753.  In the 1770s he lived in Concord (earlier called Rumford), New Hampshire, and became an officer in the 2nd Provincial Regiment.  He developed close associations with prominent British officers, incurring the wrath of citizens opposed to British rule.  Thompson made the decision to leave America and had a successful career as a scientist and inventor in Britain and on the Continent, known principally for his work in thermodynamics.  He was knighted in Britain in 1784 and was made a Count of the Holy Roman Empire in 1791 – Count “Rumford” – for his social and scientific achievements in Bavaria, where he lived for a decade and was in the employ of the government.  He is credited with the invention of the “Rumford fireplace,” which was adopted throughout Europe in the 1790s.  Count Rumford continued his scientific work until his death in Paris in 1814.

The 18- by 24-inch oil-on-canvas painting by an unknown artist dates to 1785, a fact revealed during conservation.  The portrait was acquired by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation specifically for the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, which will replace the Yorktown Victory Center by late 2016.


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