Thursday 5 February 2015
Island of Dreams
won by the person with the deepest pockets, and ask if the difference in qualitative or quantitative.
Still hazy about why we're here? It's a rather long introduction to a romantic tale of oceanographer Thomas G. "Tommy" Thompson who bought McConnell Island when it came up for sale just at the end of WWII. Thompson was born in New York in 1888 served with a somewhat murky distinction in the Ordnance and Chemical Warfare Branch of the US Army during WWI and then became a professor of Chemistry in U. Washington, Seattle. He established an international reputation in sorting out the chemistry of sea-water: measuring such eco-important details as salinity, density and the concentration of trace elements. As Craig "Sorcerer" Venter discovered two generations later about the oceanic microbiota, Thompson noted that all the parameters he could measure varied across the face of the ocean. It takes a long time to stir this enormous pot.
he tithed his income and set aside 10% for research, which presumably meant supporting his students financially. He certainly supported (and challenged) them intellectually and sent a generation of chemists out into the world the better for having encountered his robust sense of humour and been disciplined by his rigour in the laboratory. We should also give him a hat-tip for allowing, indeed encouraging, women to take a birth is U.Wash's 24m research vessel the MV Catalyst [L all decked in bunting on the occasion of her 75th birthday in 2007] years before women got, say, tenure at Harvard. He loved a knees-up and bought McConnell I. at least partly to party with an enormous throughput of guests at the weekends - in one year 700 people signed the guest-book. Interestingly also, he sold part of his collection of stamps to raise the cash to purchase the island. His son Tommy Jr. was also an interesting chap - mad about railways.