G. Thomson

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G. Thomson
Born 1760
Died 1806 (1807) (aged 46)
Palermo, Italy
Nationality English
Occupation Geologist
Known for Discovery of Widmanstätten pattern

G. Thomson (1760 – November 1806) was an English geologist. He died in Palermo at the early age of 46 years.[1]


His name is indicated only with G. because the full name is unknown.[2] In several secondary sources he is called William Thomson or William Thompson,[3] and sometimes is even confused with Lord Kelvin (1824–1907). However, in his own work published on Atti dell'Accademia Delle Scienze di Siena[4] and on the article of Paneth[5] he is indicated as G. Thomson. On some other sources is also called W. G. Thomson.[6]

Discovery of Widmanstätten pattern[edit]

A Widmanstätten pattern appears when certain types of iron meteorite are etched with nitric acid

Thomson at the time was living in Naples. One day he decided to treat with nitric acid a sample of the Krasnojarsk meteorite with the purpose of cleaning it from rust. Shortly after the contact with acid he noticed on the surface of the metal a strange never seen before figures: it was the later-called Widmanstätten pattern.

In 1804 he published his discovery in French on the Bibliothèque Britannique.[1][3][5] In 1808 his work was published post-mortem also in Italian language (translated from the original English manuscript) on Atti dell'Accademia Delle Scienze di Siena.[7]

The discovery is commonly credited to Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten probably due the early death of Thomson and the lack of an English publication. The discovery of Widmanstätten was independent, but it dates 1808 and it lacks publication.

So the full credit of the discovery should be assigned to G. Thomson due to chronological priority. For this reason, several authors suggested to call the pattern also Thomson structure.[1][3][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gian Battista Vai, W. Glen E. Caldwell. The origins of geology in Italy. Geological Society of America, 2006, ISBN 0-8137-2411-2. – p.184
  2. ^ F. Manheim, F. A. Paneth. The discovery and earliest reproductions of the Widmanstatten figures. Geoscience Abstracts, American Geological Institute (1959). p.17
  3. ^ a b c John G. Burke. Cosmic Debris: Meteorites in History. University of California Press, 1986. ISBN 0-520-05651-5
  4. ^ Gerald Joseph Home McCall, A. J. Bowden, Richard John Howarth, The history of meteoritics and key meteorite collections: fireballs, falls and finds. Geological Society, 2006. ISBN 1-86239-194-7, ISBN 978-1-86239-194-9. – p.56
  5. ^ a b F. A. Paneth. The discovery and earliest reproductions of the Widmanstatten figures. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 1960, 18, pp.176–182
  6. ^ The Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute, Iron and Steel Institute, 1964. p.968
  7. ^ G.Thomson. Saggio di G.Thomson sul ferro Malleabile trovato da Pallas in Siberia. Atti dell'Accademia Delle Scienze di Siena, 1808, IX, p.37
  8. ^ O. Richard Norton. The Cambridge encyclopedia of meteorites. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-521-62143-7.