Son of the ethnobotanist Jessie Williamson, author of Useful Plants of Malawi, Tom Williamson was born in Malawi. After studying geology at Oxford and geochemistry at Leeds University, he worked as a geologist for the gold and copper industries in Africa. Then he spent a period at the Science Museum, London. Working with climate change pioneers Hubert Lamb and Tom Wigley, and Science Museum curator John Becklake, Tom produced what was probably the world's first popular exhibition on climate change. Opened in 1977 as part of the larger Exploration exhibition, it showed how geological and other proxy data, such as tree rings, could provide data on past climate and therefore help to predict future trends.
Having written the popular Science Museum booklet, Exploring Our Changing Climate, Tom returned to the metals field. While writing technical articles for the metals industry and undertaking techno-economic studies on tin for governments, he also wrote earth science books for children and articles for the New Scientist magazine. One of the latter summarised the evidence that a magnetic sense might allow dowsers to detect underground fractures linked with metal ores and flowing groundwater. Later research by a team led by physicist Hans-Dieter Betz, of Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, suggested that a sensitivity to the tiny earth vibrations called microseisms might provide the key to many dowsing successes. Tom explores the implications of the new scientific research in his Dowsing - New Light on an Ancient Art, second edition published by Robert Hale in 2002.
Tom lived on the Isle of Portland in the early 2000s before moving with his wife to nearby Lyme Regis. He became fascinated by the mystery of why the great architect Inigo Jones chose stones from distant Portland for London buildings like the Banqueting House and the new portico for St Paul's cathedral, thereby founding the modern Portland stone industry. Tom's research reveals a surprising Dutch twist to the story. All will be told in Tom's forthcoming book, Inigo's Stones.