Do you want to know about the history of thermal underwear? OK, here goes. It’s actually quite an interesting little story. It’s about Benjamin Thompson, who directed a cannon factory in Bavaria. This was back in 1753 and the guy was actually born in Massachusetts, but he left there quickly after choosing the “wrong side” of the Revolutionary War. He was a smart and empathic fellow who tried to improve the lives of the poor in Munich, Germany, inventing drip coffeepots (everyone knows you need them for quality of life – of course!) – fitted kitchens, different kinds of stoves… anyway he was a bit of an inventor in terms of ideas and he was always coming up with new things. He studied the speed of bullets and the dampness of gunpowder and he also ended up inventing how to make bread ovens out of tombstones when army soldiers were stuck for other materials. As you can see, he was quite involved in the activites of the military, and he was eventually assigned the feeding and clothing of the army in Munich.
Being the practical man he was, he had some experiments run on the heat transfer of different kinds of fabrics, and found out that air trapped in fabric was the most important factor in heat insulation. And so, he invented thermal underwear. As you can see, being a sympathetic guy and inventing cool useful things like thermal underwear can get you a fantastic new title, the title of count, and that’s exactly what happened. He became Count Rumford.
He went on to contribute to physics by studying heat and came up with the Rumford’s Theory of Heat. He also married a widow (whose husband had been beheaded a few years prior) in 1805. Apparently the marriage didn’t go too well. Maybe she refused to wear thermal underwear in winter, thinking it wasn’t popular enough for her to wear. Little would she have known that over the next few centuries, thermals would become incredibly popular with people from all walks of life – soldiers, explorers, but ordinary everyday people too.