Benjamin Thompson

Benjamin Thompson (1753 - 1814)

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Sir Benjamin "Count Rumford" Thompson
Born in Woburn, Middlesex, Province of Massachusetts Baymap
Ancestors ancestors
Brother of [half]
Husband of — married 1772 (to 19 Jan 1792) in Concord, Province of New Hampshiremap [uncertain]
Husband of — married 24 Oct 1805 (to 30 Jun 1809) [location unknown]
Died in Auteuil, Paris, Seine, Francemap
Profile last modified 16 Nov 2019 | Created 24 Nov 2012
This page has been accessed 1,183 times.



Massachusetts state seal
Benjamin Thompson was a Massachusettsan.
Notables Project
Benjamin Thompson is Notable.
Sir Benjamin Thompson was a Loyalist in the American Revolution

Benjamin Thompson, the son of Benjamin Thompson and Ruth Simonds, was born on March 26, 1753, in the west end of the house of his grandfather, Ebenezer Thompson, in Woburn, Massachusetts. His birthplace has been preserved as the Count Rumford Birthplace Museum. [1] [2] [3]

The Count Rumford Birthplace Museum in Woburn

His father died when he was very young and he and his mother continued to live with his grandfather until March 1756, when his mother married Mr. Josiah Peirce, Jr., of Woburn, and they moved into Mr. Pierce's home. After completing his regular school education, he was at age thirteen, apprenticed to Mr. John Appleton, a Salem merchant, and also employed by Mr. Hopestill Capen, a dry goods merchant in Boston. But he had no interest in such things as keeping a ledger. His interests lay with chemistry, mechanics and mathematics. In one instance, he was severely injured while grinding gunpowder in an attempt to make fireworks. After about two years of living in Salem and Boston, he returned to Woburn, facing an uncertain future. In the winter of 1768-9, he taught school in Wilmington, Massachusetts. And in the summer of 1769 he studied with Dr. John Hay, a Woburn physician, where he enjoyed making surgical and other instruments. Then, in the summer of 1770, he and his friend and school-mate, Loammi Baldwin, were privileged to attend Professor Winthrop's lectures on Natural History at Harvard College. The two friends walked together the distance from Woburn to the Cambridge lectures, and their own discussions and experiments helped Benjamin to make great advances in his favorite studies. [4] [5] [6] [7]

In the fall of 1770, he removed to Concord, New Hampshire, acquiring a successful job as the school-master there. It was here that he met and married, in 1772, Mrs. Sarah Rolfe, widow of Col. Benjamin Rolfe, Esq., and eldest daughter of the Rev. Timothy Walker, first minister of Concord. The couple had one daughter, Sarah, born in Concord on October 18, 1774. His wife Sarah died at Concord in 1792. [7] [8] [9] [10]

After meeting with New Hampshire Governor, John Wentworth, Benjamin was appointed a Major in one of the New Hampshire regiments. He was a staunch friend of the Colonial government, and began fearing for his safety. In October, 1775, with the American Revolution brewing, he left his wife and daughter, and in January, 1776, fled to England. There he obtained the provincial rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Early in 1784, he was invited by Charles Frederick, the Duke of Bavaria, to come and work for him at Munich. Benjamin asked King George's permission to accept the offer, and not only received his permission, but also received a knighthood for his service. His new benefactor would later proclaim him "a Count of the Holy Roman Empire," to which Benjamin attached "Rumford," in remembrance of an older name of his wife's home town. [11] [12] [13] [14]

In 1804, Benjamin married Marie-Anne (Paulze) Lavoisier, a French chemist, widow of chemist Antoine Lavoisier. He lived in a villa in the village of Auteuil (near Paris), France, which had belonged to his wife's former husband. It was here that he died of a fever on August 21, 1814, at the age of 61. He was buried at the Cimetière d'Auteuil in Auteuil, Paris, France. [3] [15]


  • Knighted by King George III.[12]
  • Appointed a "Count of the Holy Roman Empire" ("Count Rumford") by Charles Frederick, Elector and Duke of Bavaria.[13]
  • Member of the Academy of Science at Berlin.[13]
  • "Councillor of State" to the Duke of Bavaria.[13]
  • Lieutenant-General of the Army of Bavaria.[13]
  • Commander-in-chief of the General Staff.[13]
  • Minister of War.[13]
  • Superintendent of the Police of the Electorate of Bavaria.[13]

Some Designs And Inventions

  • Improvements for chimneys, fireplaces and industrial furnaces.
  • Double boiler.
  • Kitchen range.
  • Drip coffee pot.
  • Percolating coffee pot.


  1. Woburn Records: PART I. BIRTHS. Citing: "THOMPSON, Benjamin, s. Benjamin and Ruth, March 26, 1753." Page 253.
  2. Sewall: Citing: "Benjamin Thompson, his father, married Ruth Simonds ... Benjamin Thompson, the future Count Rumford, ... was born March 26, 1753, in the west end of the house of his grandfather, Capt. Ebenezer Thompson, where his parents went to live immediately after their marriage." Page 390.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 05 July 2018), memorial page for Benjamin Thompson (26 Mar 1753–21 Aug 1814), Find A Grave: Memorial #57140691, citing Cimetiere d'Auteuil, Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France ; Maintained by Devin Houston (contributor 47275543).
  4. Sewall: Citing: "the child Benjamin continued to live with his mother and grandfather after the death of his father, who died November 7, 1754. ... But in March 1756, his mother married for her second husband, Mr. Josiah Pierce, Jr., of Woburn, and took her son Benjamin with her to his new home." Page 390-391.
  5. Sewall: Citing: "At the age of thirteen, he was bound an apprentice to Mr. John Appleton, a respectable merchant in Salem ... employ of Mr. Hopestill Capen, a dry goods dealer in Boston ... he was ... in the Spring of 1770 as a clerk. ... In the winter of 1768-9, ... teaching a school at Wilmington. And in the summer of 1769, he applied himself to the study of anatomy and Physiology, under the direction of Dr. John Hay, a physician then resident in Woburn, with a view to qualifying himself for the practice of medicine." Page 391.
  6. Sewall: Citing: "In the summer of 1770, ... he and his friend and school-mate, Loammi Baldwin, obtained liberty to attend Professor Winthrop's course of lectures upon Natural History, delivered in Harvard College. ... They were accustomed to walk from Woburn to Cambridge." Pages 391-392.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Moore: Citing: "Sir Benjamin Thompson" ... born at Woburn, Mass. March 26, 1753. His father died while he was very young ..." Pages 54-58.
  8. Moore: Citing: "1771.-On the 20th December, died Benjamin Rolfe, Esq. ... His widow subsequently married Benjamin Thompson, a school-master of this place, from Woburn, who was afterwards distinguished as Count Rumford. Lady Sarah Thompson died in Concord in 1792." Pages 36-37.
  9. Sewall: Citing: "In the autumn of 1770, he took charge of a school at Concord, N. H., (then called Rumford); and while fulfilling this engagement, he became acquainted with Mrs. Sarah Rolfe, daughter of Rev. Timothy Walker, the first minister of the place, and widow of Col. Benjamin Rolfe, one of the early settlers of Concord, and a gentleman of influence there, who deceased in 1770. This lady he married, in 1772, and came into possession by her of a large property." Page 392.
  10. "New Hampshire Births and Christenings, 1714-1904," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), Sarah Thompson, 18 Oct 1774; citing CONCORD TWP,MERRIMACK,NEW HAMPSHIRE; FHL microfilm 1,001,048.
  11. Sewall: Citing: "at Portsmouth, N.H., he was introduced to Gov. Wentworth, [who] quickly after conferred on him the office of Major, in one of the New Hampshire regiments. ... At Concord, he was not suffered to remain in safety and peace: and when he came to Woburn ... in danger of personal violence." Pages 392-393.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Sewall: Citing: "Early in 1784 ... invitation from Charles Frederick, Elector and reigning Duke of Bavaria, to come and reside with him at Munich his Capital ... he went back to England shortly after receiving it, to obtain permission from the King to enter into the service of a foreign prince ... the king [of England] conferred on him the honor of knighthood." Page 394.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 Sewall: Citing: "Among the numerous honorary distinctions awarded him, was his admission 'as a member of the two academies of Munich and Manheim;' his election in 1787 as 'a member of the Academy of Science at Berlin;' his appointment of 'Councillor of State' to the Elector; Lieut.-General of the Army of Bavaria; 'Commander-in-chief of the General Staff;' 'Minister of War;'Superintendent of the Police of the Electorate' ; and to crown all, in the interval between the death of the Emperor Joseph, and the coronation of his successor Leopold, his friend, Elector and reigning Duke of Bavaria, becoming Vicar of the empire, availed himself of the prerogatives of that office, to make him 'A Count of the Holy Roman Empire'. In receiving the last dignity, he chose a title in remembrance of the country of his nativity, and of the place endeared by recollections both of pleasure and pain ; and was thenceforth known as Count of Rumford, from one of the names by which the residence of his wife had been distinguished." Page 395-396.
  14. Moore: Citing: "Mr. Thompson lived with his wife about two years; when the revolution commencing, and being a staunch friend of the govenrment, he was obliged to quit his family and rural residence ; and he retired within the lines of the British army. In October, 1775, he went to Rhode-Island; embarked for Boston harbor ; and in January following, sailed for England. ... obtained the rank of lieutenant colonel ... in 1784, the King conferred upon him the honor of knighthood." Page 56.
  15. Sewall: Citing: "And the Count himself becoming acquainted at Paris with the widowed lady of Lavoisier, the celebrated chemist, a mutual attachment between them ensued, which terminated in their marriage. ... He now took up his abode in the village of Auteuil (near Paris), which had belonged to his [2nd] wife's former husband, ... till death remo'ved him from the world. His decease, occasioned by a fever, occurred August 21, 1814, at his villa in Auteuil, in the sixty-second year of his age." Page 399.

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Benjamin is 17 degrees from Donald Howard, 12 degrees from Julia Howe and 12 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.