The Rumford Room

We have named our Director’s study the Rumford Room, in honour of the brilliant, mercurial founder of the Royal Institution, Count Rumford.

Born Benjamin Thompson in Massachusetts, Count Rumford was an American chancer, ladies man, and spy. The Prince of Bavaria granted him a title. President Franklin D. Roosevelt hailed him as one of the three greatest intellects American ever produced. He was also an inventor, creating the heat-efficient Rumford fireplace; Rumford’s soup, a cheap source of nutrition; and a new kind of coffee percolator. Yet by any measure his greatest creation was the Royal Institution, which he founded in 1799.

It goes without saying that the Director of the London Institute, Thomas Fink, is not a spy. But like Rumford, he is American, and he did found a scientific institution, setting up the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences in 2011. He has also as it happens invented his own way of making coffee.

The history of this handsome second-floor room is obscure, though it has been part of the suite occupied by the resident professor from early on. In the 1970s, it and the larger room next-door were both called the Director’s Office. For 30 years it was the office of Judith Wright, secretary to a series of Directors.