R.I.P. Prof. Michael J Thompson

I just returned from giving a lecture to find an email in my inbox delivering the awful news that Professor Michael J. Thompson (pictured above) passed away unexpectedly on 15th October 2018, while at a scientific meeting in Tokyo.

Thompson’s scientific research activity was primarily in the field of helioseismology, astroseismology, solar physics, and inverse problems. He worked extensively in developing and applying inverse techniques in helioseismology and, in particular, measuring the stratification, rotation, and large-scale flows in the solar interior.

Along with being the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, Michael Thompson was also an NCAR senior scientist. From 2010 to 2014 he directed the High Altitude Observatory and was an associate director of NCAR. Prior to joining NCAR, Mike Thompson was Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics in the University of Sheffield, and was formerly a Professor of Physics at Imperial College London. I knew him very well personally from the time before that, as we worked together for many years in the Astronomy Unit in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London. Although we didn’t work in the same topics we had many interesting discussions about inverse problems in our respective fields, as well as many other topics (especially cricket). I recall that he taught an MSc course on cosmology, which he volunteered to do as he was interested in learning more about the subject.

More recently we kept in touch regularly via dinners at the RAS Club, of which he was a member, until he moved to the USA. It is through the Club mailing list that I learnt the sad news of his death.

I know I can speak for everyone who knew him in saying that he was not only a first-rate scientist but also a greatly valued colleague and an extremely nice man. Mike will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, and I extend my deepest condolences to his family at what must be a very difficult time.


UPDATE: Here’s a news item about Mike’s death from the local paper in Boulder Colorado.


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