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Famous Munich citizens – Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford)

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Munich is famous for its heritage, customs and of course the people living here or those who lived here in former times. Some of them influenced Munich’s history, others were just nice fellows, sometimes a bit freakish, but always typical Munich-ish :-). This one here had a huge influence on the city and both tourists and citizens enjoy until today what he created…

Benjamin Thompson is better known in Munich as “Graf Rumford” (Count Rumford). He was born in Woburn, Massachusetts near Boston. He was very interested in mathematics and physics, but worked as a merchant and teacher in the town of Rumford (which is today Concord, New Hampshire). He also supported the British troops and the governor and therefore he was a target of North American Rebels during the War of Independence. In 1775 he left his family and went to London where he reserched on military techniques. He invented a communication system for ships, improved firearms and did tests with gunpowder. After returning to the colonies, he was commander of a cavallery unit in New York. In 1783, before the end of the war, he went back to England but realized that the loss of the war would have a bad influence on his military career. Thompson looked out for a new scope and realized, that in Vienna, the signs are pointing to war. A war between Austria and the Ottoman Empire (the Austro-Turkish War). So he went to Vienna, to offer his services to Emperor Joseph II.

Benjamin Thompson

„Benjamin Thompson“ Lizenziert unter Gemeinfrei über Wikimedia Commons.

On his journey he met Prince-elector Karl Theodor of Bavaria, who asked him to be his aide-de-camp and work for Bavaria.

Thompson agreed and started to reorgnize the Bavarian Army, which was in a quite desolate situation. He ordered, that every garrison should plant kitchen gardens to improve the supply of the soldiers. He then also realized, that the Bavarians had a hard time then. One third of the citizens were poor and many of them lived from mendicity. He therefore also tried to improve the situation of the people and built workhouses for the poor. To feed the poor, he invented a certain soup, the so called “Rumford Soup”. As he was an researcher he also established the cultivation of the potato in Bavaria and invented many things, for example an oven, a chimney fireplace and lamps, that used energy more effectively. He also studied and improved many things like poverty, thermodynamics, air pollution, veterinary medicine, military uniforms, sericulture and landscape gardening.

He also was involved in the construction of a huge park beneath the military gardens, devoted to the amusement of the citizens. This park was called “Theodors Park”, but soon became known until today as “Englischer Garten” (English Garden). In 1791 he was appointed “Reichsgraf” (Imperial Count). He choosed the name of his former hometown (Rumford) to be part of the title and therefore became Count Rumford.

He also was member of the Royal Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the late 1790s he went back to London and studied on a few more things. In 1804 he married (again) and went to France. The marriage was soon divorced and Count Rumford continued to do researches. He died in 1814 and is buried in Auteuil, now a district of Paris.

In Munich you can still see the work of Count Rumford. Just stroll through the English Garden.

There are also things that remeber him:

– The “Rumford Monument” in Englischer Garten

– The Rumford Statue in Maximilianstreet

– The Rumfordstreet (south of Viktualienmarket)

– The “Rumfordschlössl” in Englischer Garten (Rumford’s small palace, nowadays a young people’s recreational facility)

2 Comments

  1. Hi Joe. Of course we can 🙂
    You can find the statue in Maximilianstreet between the intersection of Karl-Scharnagl-Ring and Maximilianstreet and the “Maxmonument” (a big statue of King Maximilian of Bavaria, located in the middle of the street). In front of the “Regierung von Oberbayern” (Government of Upper Bavaria).

    Have a look here:
    https://www.google.de/maps/@48.1380017,11.5860375,3a,75y,319.78h,92.3t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sOAXJW9pbxV0467eZgHIarA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  2. Can you tell me where the Rumford statue on Maximilian Street is. I can’t find it in any internet searches. I hope to visit Munich in a few years and would like to see it. He is a distant relative of mine. Thank you for this article about Benjamin Thompson. He did a lot for Bavaria back in the 1790s.

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