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(Published in Harper's Weekly, Saturday 10th June 1871)

It is sometimes sarcastically said that the world knows nothing of its greatest men; but the truth of the saying is not unfrequently illustrated in sober fact. Who, among the majority of ordinary folk, has ever heard of benjamin Thompson, Count of Rumford? And it would be difficult - nay, impossible - to mention any philosopher, statesmean, and philanthropist, all in one, of whom so little is known. The great characteristic of Rumford is that, while he was a philosopher, he was eminently a practical philosopher. Rumford did not write merely speculative essays, or simply propound abtruse theories. He was, above all others, the philosopher of common things. He made the feeding, clothing, warming, and sheltering of mankind sciences in themselves. The comprehensiveness of his grasp was amazing. In looking over the list of the subjects of his essays and researches we range from the "Force of fired Gunpowder," "Naval Signals," or the "Harmony of Colors," to the "Philosophy of Cooking" and the "Preparation of cheap Soups, Indian Puddings, Macaroni, Potato Salads," etc. At one time we find him discussing, as learnedly as the Astronomer Royal, the movements of the molecules of a heated fluid, and the chemical properties of light; at another, the pleasure of eating and drinking, and the means that may be employed for increasing it.

Rumford was commissioned bt the Elector of Bavaria to reorganize the Bavarian army. He studied the philosophy of cookery, and made experiments on the nourishing qualities of different kinds of food, with a view to feeding the men as well and as economically as possible. He determined the best material for the soldier's clothing; and, to this end, he first considered the function of the clothing, and found that in winter it should resist the escape of the animal heat to the cooler atmosphere, and thus maintain the body at the temperature required. For this purpose a non-conductor - or at least, a bad conductor - of heat is required. The relative conducting power of the different clothing materials being in his time unknown, he constructed a theoretical soldier in the shape of a thermometer, which he would clothe with the materials he wished to test, and in this manner he obtained the results.

Benjamin Thompson began life in extreme poverty - was a poor teacher in a colonial village school; yet, step by step, he rose to such honor and distinction that, when the Elector of Bavaria was forced to fly from Munich, the temporary sovereignty was handed over, with plenary powers, to Count Rumford, and he wielded his authority with complete success. He practically solved the social problems, which now, after a lapse of over seventy years, are puzzling the brains of modern wiseacres. He abolished mendicity from a country where beggars absolutely swarmed. He succeeded in making the rogues and vagabonds of Bavaria pay all the expenses of their food, clothing, and lodging, and leave a handsome balance over and above. He provided for the poor without poor-rates. He was, in short, a great statesman, a practical soldier, a skillful mechanic and engineer, a successful philanthropist, and a real philosopher.

An article called Count Rumford and his Daughter published in New England Magazine, in 1843, will be added here in due course.

An article about the Life of Count Rumford (Published in Chamber's Miscellany of Useful and Entertaining Tracts, published by William and Robert Chambers of Edinburgh,1847).

An article about Count Rumford published in "Blue Book", written by Morrison Colladay, in 1950, will be added here in due course..