26.03.

1753: American who became a Count of the Holy Roman Empire

1753: American who became a Count of the Holy Roman Empire
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 26 March 1753
  • Benjamin Thompson was an American of humble origin, but during his life he managed to become a knight in England (Sir Benjamin Thompson) and was given the title of Count of the Holy Roman Empire (German: Reichsgraf) for his contribution to the German lands.

An interesting man named Benjamin Thompson was born on this day. During his lifetime, he built a rather unusual career.

From fairly humble roots in America, he first became much wealthier by marrying a well-off widow named Sarah Rolfe. He was not even 20 years old when he entered this marriage, which proved useful to him.

When the Americans launched the war for independence against the British, Benjamin Thompson, a rather rich landowner, sided with Great Britain i.e. King George III and the British colonial powers.

Since the Americans won the war, Thompson moved from the U.S. to London. There he had a certain reputation as a scientist because of his experiments with gunpowder, so that he even became a member of the famous Royal Society. He also received a knighthood, becoming Sir Benjamin Thompson.

In 1785 he moved even further – to Bavaria. There he was the aide-de-camp of the reigning Elector, Karl Theodor von Wittelsbach.

Thompson introduced a number of innovations from America and England to Bavaria. He is allegedly responsible for launching potato cultivation in that part of Germany and inventing a special kind of soup that was both tasty and could provide a cheap food source (it consisted of potatoes, beer, barley, and peas).

In Munich, Thompson devised the famous English Garden (Englischer Garten) – which is today one of the largest public city parks in the world. For his contribution to the German lands Benjamin Thompson received the title of Count of the Holy Roman Empire, with the attribute “of Rumford” (German: Reichsgraf von Rumford).

English Garden in Munich
English Garden in Munich

At the age of over 50 years, after his mentioned American wife died, he married Marie-Anne Lavoisier, the widow of the famous French scientist Antoine Lavoisier (one of the fathers of modern chemistry who was executed on the guillotine). Sir Benjamin Thompson died in Paris at the age of 61.

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