In 1915, the Science Museum of Victoria was seeking help in describing some exhibits connected with the chemical industry. They approached Percival Faraday Thompson, who at that time, was on the staff of the Chemistry Department of the Melbourne Working Men's College. Percival was one of the sons of J. J. Thompson, a collector of scientific items.
The Museum was also seeking to acquire additional telegraph and telephone objects. It seems quite probable that Percival mentioned his father's collection of such objects, with the result that 23 items from this collection were donated to the Museum by the estate of J. J. Thompson.
John Joseph Thompson was born in 1839 in South Shields, Co Durham, England. His parents were John James Thompson and Margaret Thompson (nee Strong). The family came to Australia in 1850. In 1874 Thompson married Elizabeth Fazakerly Parry. His occupation in the registration of marriage is listed as stone mason.
Thompson lived in Carlton. At some stage he appears to have become a pawnbroker (possibly taking over the business of a relative) in Queensberry Street, as this is his occupation as listed on the 1884 birth registration of one of his children. The Thompson's had eight children, four of whom survived childhood. One child, born in 1884, was christened Percival Faraday, indicating that Thompson may have had some interest in science.
He was a member of the Microscopical Society of Victoria and in 1878 he delivered a paper on the spectroscope to the Society. The Thompsons moved to Rose Street in Armadale in 1891. John Joseph's occupation was now listed in Sands and McDougall directories as 'gentleman'. While at Rose Street he pursued an interest in astronomy and owned at least two telescopes. He also collected scientific instruments, including electrical equipment and telegraph instruments.
John Joseph died on 31 December 1898.