- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

Robert J. Thompson Jr., a rocket propulsion technology specialist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, died Nov. 5 of multiple organ failure at the Hospice Unit of Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. He was 87.

Born in San Francisco, Mr. Thompson received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1940 from the University of California at Los Angeles. He also received a doctorate in physical chemistry in 1946 from the University of Rochester.

From 1943 to 1946, Mr. Thompson was a research associate at the Alleghany Ballistics Laboratory in Cumberland, Md. — a section of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s National Defense Research Committee. His work there focused on solid propellants, internal ballistics studies and the development of high-velocity aircraft rockets.

From 1946 to 1953, Mr. Thompson was chief of research at M.W. Kellogg Co. in Jersey City, N.J., where he worked in the company’s special projects division.

He became a senior research engineer at Bendix Aviation in Teterboro, N.J., before moving to Rockwell International’s Rocketdyne Division in Canoga Park, Calif., where he served as an official in the research and rocket divisions until 1973.

In 1974, Mr. Thompson began working at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel. After serving as special assistant to the director and a member of the program review board, he supervised the technical information branch from 1979 to 1985. His responsibilities included overseeing the Chemical Propulsion Information Agency, which was then managed by the APL.

Mr. Thompson served on the editorial board for APL’s Technical Digest and was also one of the principal architects of Johns Hopkins University’s master’s degree program in technical management.

He continued to serve as vice chairman of the Technical Management Program Committee until 2005, even after officially retiring from APL in 1995.

Throughout his career, Mr. Thompson was involved in various academic and professional societies, including the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Mr. Thompson also was involved with the American Field Service and hosted exchange students in California and in Maryland. He was interested in environmental and population issues and was a voracious reader. He enjoyed listening to classical music, reading poetry and attending concerts.

Mr. Thompson is survived by his wife of 60 years, Nancy, of Silver Spring; two sons, William of Vancouver, British Columbia, and John of Los Angeles; a daughter, Ann Welch of San Diego; and six grandchildren.

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