65 Millimeters. 7.8 Millimeters thick, 427 grams of 18-karat Gold, (13.7 Troy Ounces). Obv: Uniformed bust left of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (1753-1814), American Loyalist soldier, scientist and inventor. Rev: Legend RUMFORD MEDAL FOR DISCOVERIES IN LIGHT OR HEAT around 6-line inscription of the Academy, 5-line engraved presentation to KARL TAYLOR COMPTON/ FOR RESEARCH/ IN/ THERMIONICS AND/ SPRECTROSCOPY. By Moritz Furst. With original case of issue.
Born in Woburn, Mass., in 1753, Benjamin Thompson (later Count Rumford) remained loyal to King George III during the American Revolution, serving under General Gage and Lord Germaine. He moved to Britain after independence was secured, relocating to Bavaria in Southern Germany in 1785, where he served as aide-de-camp to Duke-Elector Karl Theodor. He spearheaded army reorganization and internal reforms including poor relief and increased his world reputation through research in light, heat and photometry. He was raised to the nobility as Reichsgraf von Rumford of the Holy Roman Empire in 1791.
He endowed the Rumford awards in 1796, providing $5,000 for London’s Royal Society for its Rumford Medal and for the Rumford Prize of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The first Rumford Medals were struck by the Philadelphia Mint in 1839. His bequest stipulated that each awardee be given both the Silver and Gold Medals, which were not to be worth less than $300.
Karl Taylor Compton was born in Wooster, Ohio, in 1897. His father was a noted Presbyterian lay leader, his mother a Mennonite from an Alsatian and Hessian immigrant family. His brother Arthur became a prominent physicist, his sister Mary a missionary. At age 11 Karl began heavy labor to raise the funds needed for his for college education. He worked as a hod-carrier on construction sites, a farm hand, mule skinner, book canvasser and surveyed the first mile of paved road in Ohio.
He studied at Wooster University and received his Ph.D. from Princeton summa cum laude. He was scientific attache at the U.S. embassy in Paris in World War I, making international contacts that lasted a lifetime. He served as President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1930 to 1948 and spearheaded his program of full-scale cooperation of science and government. He served on the National Defense Research Committee in 1940 and worked with detection systems including radar. He served on the Secretary of War’s Special Advisory Committee for the Atomic bomb, and participated in the Manhattan Project. President Truman made him Chairman on the Joint Chiefs Evaluation Board on testing atomic weapons. He went to Japan as part of a U.S. Scientific Intelligence Mission and headed Truman’s Research and Development Board on scientific preparedness in the postwar world. Compton retired as President of MIT in 1948 and died in 1954.
Although the Philadelphia Mint struck many Rumford Medals through 1860, it is uncertain who struck later issues. The present example displays subtly matte surfaces unlike those of earlier years that Stacks-Bowers Galleries has handled. It is housed in a pebbled case with purple satin interior, within a hinged purple plush page like those sometimes seen in U.S. Mint medals.