The name Rumford does not only apply to the style and shape of this particular fireplace; it is the name of its inventor as well. Count Rumford led a very intriguing life and his story is well-known in both North America and Europe. He was a scientist, inventor, and adventurer. His main investigations led him to study the effects of heat and how it is transmitted.
Rumford applied his knowledge of heat towards the improvement of fireplaces. He made them smaller and shallower with wide-angled covings to reflect more heat. He also streamlined the throat to eliminate turbulence and carry away the smoke with minimal loss of heated room air.
Count Rumford created a sensation in London when he introduced the notion of restricting the chimney opening to increase the updraft. He and his workers modified fireplaces by inserting bricks into the hearth to make the side walls angled and added a choke to the chimney to increase the speed of air circulating up the flue. This resulted in a streamlined airflow prompting the smoke to go up into the chimney rather than lingering and eventually choking bystanders inside the home. Many fashionable London houses became smoke-free once modified per his instructions. His celebrity soared once news of his successful design became widespread.
Rumford wrote two papers detailing fireplace improvements, one in 1796 and the other in 1798. He became well-known and his papers were widely read during his lifetime. In the 1790s, his “Rumford fireplace” became, almost immediately, a state-of-the-art design worldwide.