Ned Thompson ’45 From a Grateful Student: Ned Thompson Remembrances
john a. katzenellenbogen ’62
I was very sorry to hear that Mr. Thompson passed away. I thought it might be worthwhile to send the family a couple of remembrances of my experience with him that were — in fact — pivotal in my own development and career. I came to Gilman in 1958 from a public school in New York State. I entered in the Third Form, and I took Ned Thompson’s chemistry course during the 1959–1960 year. Taking the course and a key action by Mr. Thompson during that year were to prove important to me in many ways. His course: For several years before coming to Gilman, I had been fascinated by chemistry and had done a lot of reading on my own. Shortly after the course began, Mr. Thompson took me aside and said, “It is clear that you know far more chemistry than I do [certainly was not really the case], so I’d like you to stop coming to class and instead help me set up the afternoon chemistry labs for the rest of the course.”
I was, of course, both delighted at being so selected, and a bit nervous. My first task was to make a standard 0.5 molar solution of hydrochloric acid for the class to use in a titration experiment. I worked diligently to get the solution exactly right, and then gently and carefully set it up in a siphon bottle. The results from the Monday class were puzzling — with assays showing values from 0.6 to 0.55 molar, not 0.5 molar as I was sure I had made. I was puzzled. After the Tuesday class got values 0.52–0.52 molar, my puzzlement turned to distress. Mr. Thompson, however, having figured out what the problem was, simply shook the siphon bottle. Thereafter, all of the other classes got exactly 0.48 molar! In my eagerness to be exact, I had neglected to mix the solution! It was a good lesson for me, one that has stayed with me over the years — experience and commonsense matter. A pivotal reference: Knowing of my great interest in science, my mother, a professional pianist, looked out for every opportunity for me to meet scientists,
John A. Katzenellenbogen kindly shared a letter he sent to the Thompson family.
10/20/15 1:58 PM