Patience Thomson had every reason to believe her children would be high achievers. Her parents and her husband’s parents were distinguished Cambridge scientists who had won Nobel prizes. She herself had taken her A-levels at 16, won an exhibition to Cambridge to study modern languages and translated Adolf Hitler’s private correspondence while working for the Foreign Office. Yet she despaired when it emerged that her son, Ben, could hardly read and write as a child.
A generation later, after Thomson had developed into one of Britain’s foremost educationists on dyslexia, Ben Thomson (her chief “guinea pig”) had read astrophysics at the University of Edinburgh, become chief executive of an investment bank, founded Scotland’s largest political think tank, Reform Scotland, and now invests in food and drink companies including Planet Organic and Montezuma’s chocolate.