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Thompson, Sir Benjamin: letter, 18 Nov 1791

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0096 AL116
Held at: Senate House Library, University of London
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Full title: Thompson, Sir Benjamin: letter, 18 Nov 1791
Date(s): 1791
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 6 leaves
Name of creator(s): Thompson | Sir | Benjamin | 1753-1814 | Knight | Count von Rumford | scientist, natural philosopher, soldier and administrator


Administrative/Biographical history:

Benjamin Thompson was born in Massachusetts in 1753. He became interested in science when young. In 1772 he married Sarah Rolfe, a well-connected heiress, and became a landowner and a major in the New Hampshire militia. He fought for the British during the American Revolution and moved to London in 1776, where he continued to serve in the British army, spending much of his time in Bavaria and taking part in the French Revolutionary Wars. He carried out scientific work throughout his army career, concentrating particularly on thermodynamics and inventing several devices relating to heat retention. Thompson was knighted in 1784 and created Count Rumford in the nobility of the Holy Roman Empire in 1792. With Sir Joseph Banks he established the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1799, and he endowed a professorship at Harvard University. In later life Sir Benjamin settled in Paris. Sarah Thompson having died in 1792, he married Antoine Lavoisier's widow, Marie-Anne, as his second wife in 1804, but they separated a few years later. He continued his scientific work until his death in 1814.


Scope and content/abstract:

Letter from Sir Benjamin Thompson of Munich to Lord Sheffield [John Baker Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield], 18 Nov 1791. Describing the condition and people of Bavaria. Speaking of the Elector's troops: '... I know of no Troops that are so well and so comfortably clothed as ours, both for Summer and Winter ...'. Giving details of the crops, minerals and commerce of Bavaria. 'It would be difficult,'he writes, 'to convey to your Lordship an adequate idea of the Ignorance, Superstition and corruption which pervade and darken every part of this neglected Country.' Says that the clergy and nobility hold a monopoly of the beer in Bavaria: '... which is the great source of their riches, and on that account Drunkenness must be encouraged.' Autograph, with signature.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

See hard copy catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

Access to this collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the supervised environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Please contact the University Archivist for details. 24 hours notice is required for research visits.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Finding aids:

Catalogue of the manuscripts and autograph letters in the University Library at the central building of the University of London (1921). A copy is available in the Library's Palaeography Room.

Archival Information

Archival history:

See archivist

Immediate source of acquisition:

Purchased from E Hall, 1967.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Anya Turner.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Aug 2008

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