He was awarded the degree of BSc with Honours in the Chemistry of Leather Manufacture from the University of Leeds in 1960 and obtained a PhD from the University of Northampton. He worked in research and technical services associated with the leather trades until 1968 when he was appointed Works Director responsible for technical and production management at the Wellington Tannery located in Raunds, Northamptonshire part of the Strong & Fisher Group which was the largest lambskin clothing leather maker in the UK at the time. Thompson was a very respected figure in the tanning industry among his peers.

In 1994 he was appointed Chief Executive of the Leather Conservation Centre and retired in 2004. As a leather chemist he was a major contributor to bringing a deeper understanding of the science of leather and related materials to the conservation profession, greatly advancing the work of John Waterer whose work dated back to post World War 2 and the 1950s. 

In 2006, he co-authored and edited the Butterworth-Heinemann book “Conservation of Leather and Related Materials” with Marion Kite, a text which sought to rectify the underrepresented topic of skin, leather and related materials conservation by the written word. It includes contributions from the leading specialists in their fields, such as Betty Haines, Mary Lou Florian, Ester Cameron and Jim Spriggs.

He was an Accredited Conservator, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a Fellow and Past President of the Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists (SLTC) and Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation. He was Past Chairman of the Council of the Museum of Leathercraft and Treasurer of the Archaeological Leather Group.