- William Boyce Thompson
William Boyce Thompson, (
May 13, 1869– June 27, 1930), was an American mining engineer, financier, promoter of Western support for the revolutionary Kerenskyand Bolshevikgovernments of Russia, philanthropist, and founder of Newmont Mining.Born in Virginia City, Montana, Thompson was a rare combination of hardheaded realist and dreamer. Born and schooled in the rough mining towns of southwest Montana - but also at Phillips Exeter Academyand the Columbia School of Mines - he built a large fortune purchasing undervalued copper and gold claims through his company Newmont Mining. By the time of his death, Newmont Mining was one of the three largest mining companies in the world after Cecil Rhodes's De Beersand Sir Ernest Oppenheimer's Anglo American plc. He was not only a shrewd man of business but also had great intellectual curiosity, particularly about science. He wished to be a force for good in the world and supported various philanthropies.
He was a director of the
Federal Reserve Bank of New Yorkfrom 1914 to 1919 and was twice (1916, 1920) a delegate to the Republican National Convention. He visited Russia before the revolution and again in 1918 just after the Russian Revolution of 1917and the effects of crop failure and starvation were rampant. Thompson was a member of an American Red Crossrelief mission that also hoped to encourage formation of a democratic government in Russia. He was awarded the honorary title of colonel by the American Red Cross.
The mission saw firsthand the suffering of the people and the inability of the social democratic government headed by
Alexander Kerenskyto feed the hungry. Although Thompson added $1 million of his own to the relief funds provided by the U.S. government, he was unable to convince President Woodrow Wilsonto do more. However, he was able to rally other financiers including the trust of J.P. Morganto aid the effort. Soon after the Americans had returned home, the Kerensky government fell and the Bolsheviks came to power. Thompson’s hopes for a prosperous democracy in Russia were ended. The Russian experience convinced him that agriculture, food supply, and social justice are linked. World political stability in the future, he prophesied, would depend on the availability of adequate food. This conviction, along with his faith in science, helped to shape his next philanthropic project.
In 1920, he decided to establish an institute for plant research, and endowed it with $10 million, a veritable fortune in the 1920s. He hoped that this "seed" money would enable the institute to acquire the very best scientists, equipment, and supplies and then to develop relationships with industry and the government to help finance research.Boyce-Thompson also willed $1 million to Phillips Exeter Academy upon his death and a significant gem and mineral collection to New York's
American Museum of Natural History. His daughter, Margaret Thompson, and, wife Gertrude Hickman, inherited the balance of his wealth. In 1941 "The Alder" Boyce-Thompson's 265 ft. motor-yacht was given the U.S. Navy to aid the war effort.
To the Phillips Exeter Academy, Thompson donated $2 million during his lifetime. His donations created the Boyce-Thomspon science building, a new gymnasium in 1923, squash courts, a baseball field, sports cage, and other facilities.
Thompson died from
pneumoniain 1930. A 1935 biography of Boyce-Thompson, "The Magnate", by Herman Hagedorn, the presidential biographer of Theodore Roosevelt, profiles his life.
Boyce-Thompson family (Listed by Ancestry/Generation)
*William Boyce Thompson (1869–1930) (m. Gertrude Hickman)
**Margaret Thompson Biddle (1902–1956) (m.
Theodore SchulzeII div.) (2nd m. Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Jr.)
***Theodore Schulze III (1920–1962) (m. Joyce Ward)
***Margaret Boyce Schulze (1922—1964) (m. Prince Alexander zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen) (2nd m.
****Prince Christian Hohenlohe
* [http://arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/history.html Boyce Thompson Arboretum Biography of its founder]
* [http://www.yonkershistory.org/8_2_2.html William Boyce Thompson, An Enduring Legacy in Yonkers]
* [http://reformed-theology.org/html/books/bolshevik_revolution/chapter_06.htm Consolidation and Export of the Revolution]
* [http://bti.cornell.edu/ Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research]
* [http://ag.arizona.edu/bta/btsa1.html Boyce Thompson Arboretum]
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