Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Thomson, Jocelyn Home

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THOMSON, JOCELYN HOME (1859–1908), chief inspector of explosives, born at Oxford on 31 Aug. 1859, was the second of four sons of William Thomson, provost of Queen's College, Oxford, afterwards archbishop of York [q. v.]. Educated at Eton and the Royal Academy, Woolwich, Thomson entered the royal artillery in 1878, and engaged the following year in the Zulu war. Subsequently he was transferred to India, and thence he proceeded to Egypt, where he served in the royal horse artillery.

From an early age he was an earnest student of astronomy, and when twenty-three years of age he was nominated by the Royal Society an observer of the transit of Venus in the island of Barbados, receiving commendation for his accurate and painstaking work. From 1887 to 1892 he served on the staff of the Department of Artillery and Stores, and from 1892 to 1893 was second assistant to the director-general of ordnance factories. Meanwhile in 1888 he acted as secretary to the war office explosives committee, of which Sir Frederick Abel [q. v. Suppl. II] was president. The smokeless powder 'cordite,' recommended to the government in 1890 for adoption, received its name from Thomson. His comprehensive grasp of the characteristics of explosive substances enabled him to render conspicuous services to the committee. In 1891 he went to Canada to conduct tests on cordite when exposed to the influence of a cold climate.

Thomson was appointed an inspector of explosives under Sir Vivian Majendie in 1893, and in 1899 he succeeded Majendie as chief inspector.

In 1901 the Belgian government conferred upon him the Order of Leopold. He was made C.B. in 1907.

From 1900 to 1902 Thomson by official leave acted as consulting engineer in connection with the undertaking for transmitting electrical power from the Cauvery Falls to the Mysore gold fields. Afterwards he acted in a similar capacity to the Jhelum Valley electrical transmission scheme. In each his efforts met with signal success.

Thomson displayed versatile gifts in mechanical invention. Among useful apparatus which he devised were a mercury vacuum pump, a petroleum testing appliance, and a 'position-' or 'range-finder.' For the last named he received a grant of 500l. from the war department.

Suffering from nervous breakdown, Thomson shot himself on 13 Feb. 1908 at his residence in Draycott Place, Chelsea. He was buried in Brompton cemetery. He married in 1886 Mabel Sophia, fourth daughter of Thomas Bradley Paget, of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, vicar of Welton, East Yorkshire. He had no issue. He was the author of a useful compendium, 'Guide to the Explosives Act, 1875,' and wrote many valuable official reports. He collaborated with Sir Boverton Redwood in 'Handbook on Petroleum; with Suggestions on the Construction and Use of Mineral Oil Lamps' (1901 ; 2nd edit. 1906); and 'The Petroleum Lamp, its Choice and Use' (1902).

[Private information; 32nd Annual Report, H.M. Inspectors of Explosives; Rise and Progress of the British Explosives Industry, 1909; Arms and Explosives, March 1908; Annual Register, 1908; The Times, 15 and 18 Feb. 1908.]

T. E. J.