Robert C. Tompkins, 74, scientist, research chemist

September 08, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Robert Charles Tompkins, a Towson resident and retired scientist who studied fallout from nuclear weapons testing for the Department of Defense, died of cancer Sunday at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 74.

A native of Bucyrus, Ohio, Mr. Tompkins majored in chemistry at Ohio State University, graduating in 1944. Mr. Tompkins worked as a research chemist at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, before doing graduate work at University of Chicago.

In 1949, Mr. Tompkins moved to Baltimore and began working as physical scientist at the Army Nuclear Defense Laboratory in Edgewood.

At Christ Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Mr. Tompkins met Elizabeth Lee Raynor, whom he married in 1957. They were married for 40 years before her death last year.

The couple lived in Lutherville and then Towson.

In 1971, Mr. Tompkins transferred to the Army Ballistic Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where he was a research chemist. He retired in 1986.

After his retirement, Mr. Tompkins became active in the Baltimore chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, serving as president and as editor of the newsletter.

A man of strong opinions, Mr. Tompkins wrote frequent letters to the editor of The Sun, occasionally seeking to correct facts in science articles.

"I often read the paper just to see if he had anything in it," said his daughter, Joan Elizabeth Tompkins of Towson.

Ms. Tompkins described her father as "matter of fact," accepting even a cancer diagnosis with his usual calm. "Well, now I know what I'm dying from," he said upon learning that he had cancer, Ms. Tompkins recalled.

Mr. Tompkins attended Grace & St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Baltimore and was a member of the American Chemical Society, Sigma Xi, American Physical Society, the New York Academy of Science, the DNA Fallout Working Group in Washington and the National Academy of Science-Natural Resources Council. He lectured at St. Mary's Seminary and University of Baltimore in the 1970s.

Mr. Tompkins was included in Who's Who in the East and the American Men and Women of Science as an expert on physical chemistry.

Services will take place at noon Saturday at Grace & St. Peter's Episcopal. The family suggests donations to the church at 707 Park Ave., Baltimore 21201, or to Amnesty International.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Tompkins is survived by two sons, Michael David Tompkins of Toledo, Ohio, and Stephen Charles Tompkins of Columbia; and three grandchildren.

Pub Date: 9/08/98

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