Julian Leroy Thompson

1901 - 2002

Julian L. Thompson, a physicist, taught in four Seventh-day Adventist institutions of higher learning during a career that spanned seventy-two years.  The last fifteen years of his career were spent as a researcher in optics, light, and lasers at the Naval Ordinance Test Center at China Lake, California.

Julian was born in Dinuba, California, on July 20, 1901, the younger of two sons of Harrison (Harry) Guy and Birdie Ellen (Ella) Pardee Thompson. Both were given opportunity for music study, Julian in cornet and his brother, Verne, in piano, and would become accomplished musicians. They both attended Pacific Union College, where Julian graduated with a B.A. in science in 1923.

He started teaching at Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern Adventist University, in 1923 where he was head of the science department and at times directed the band. On August 14, 1929, he married Laura Geneva Bogard, teacher and registrar at SJC.

In 1931, Thompson completed a master's degree at the University of Oklahoma. He subsequently enrolled at the University of Chicago for doctoral study and taught during the 1933-1938 school years at nearby Broadview College, later academy. The Thompson's only child, Mary Lane, was born on July 14, 1937.

In 1938, he accepted an invitation to chair the physics and math department at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University. His older brother, Verne, would join the music department at EMC five years later and during their time at the college, they frequently provided music together for programs on the campus.

In 1946, following completion of a Ph.D. at UC, he became chair of the physics department at La Sierra College, now University, a position he would hold until 1959. While at LSC, he spent summers doing research at China Lake, California and became a full-time researcher there in 1959, a position he held until his retirement at age 73. During those years he worked with some of the most famous physicists of that era, including J. Rud Nielsen and Arthur Compton, a Nobel laureate.

Julian and his wife were living in Lancaster, California, when they celebrated 65 years of marriage on August 14, 1994. She died a month later, on September 19, 1994, at age 92. He died eight years later, on June 13, 2002, at age 100, following a brief illness.


Sources: Obituary, Andrews University Focus, Summer 2002; Southwestern Union Record, 1 January 1, 1924, pg. 3, and 23 September 23, 1931, pg. 8; Pacific Union Recorder, June 5, 1946, pg. 3; General Conference Committee minutes, April 3 and May 21, 1934; The Sooner Magazine, February 1934, listing of the U. of Oklahoma graduates, pg.115; The Chronicle of Southwestern Adventist College, 1994, pg. 80; 1920 and 1930 U.S. Census Records, McComas/Kenny Family Tree, Ancestory.com.