Thomas Gordon Thompson
Thompson was born on 28 November 1888 at Rose Bank, Staten Island, New York. He received his bachelor's degree from Clark University at Worcester, Massachusetts in 1914. With the support of a scholarship from the British Iron and Steel Institute, he then began graduate studies at the University of Washington, in Seattle, Washington. He received his doctorate in chemistry from this institution in 1918. During World War I, Thompson served in the United States Army in the Ordnance and Chemical Warfare Branch, rising to the rank of captain. Returning to the university in 1919, Dr. Thompson was promoted to associate professor in 1923 and to full professor in 1929.
Dr. Thompson — the first American chemist to devote his major efforts to investigating the chemistry of sea water — founded the University of Washington's oceanographic laboratories in 1930. This was an interdepartmental institution which drew its staff from the faculties of the university's departments of physics, chemistry, bacteriology, botany, and zoology. Two years later, as a result of Dr. Thompson's guidance, the university placed a small research vessel, Catalyst, in service to perform inshore oceanographic work in the Pacific Northwest.
Over the ensuing years, Dr. Thompson developed methods and techniques for the quantitative determination of elements — such as aluminum, boron, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, strontium, silicon, bromine, iodine, phosphates, and nitrates — which occur, in small quantities, in sea water. In this vein, the professor's main interest lay in determining the relation of the chemical and physical properties of sea water — notably the specific gravity, refractivity, and electrical conductivity.
He participated actively in international geographic and oceanographic ventures, serving or chairing committees and co-authoring studies on specific oceanographic matters. During World War II, Dr. Thompson again served in the United States Army, eventually rising to the rank of colonel.
In 1951, Professor Thompson's efforts in the field of oceanography were rewarded when the university established a department of oceanography. Dr. Thompson was recognized as one of the world's leading oceanographers and one of the pioneers of the chemistry of the sea. Subsequent to his promotion to professor emeritus, the professor's health slowly deteriorated, eventually ending in his death at Seattle, Wash., on 10 August 1961.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.