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Biographical entry Ackland, Thomas Henry (1908 - 1994)

FRCS 1937; MD Melbourne 1936; MS 1937; FRACS 1939; FACS 1969.

8 September 1908
Melbourne, Australia
12 October 1994
General surgeon and Thoracic surgeon


Thomas Ackland was a general surgeon in Melbourne who introduced mammography into Australia. He was born in Melbourne on 8 September 1908, the son of William Ackland, an engineer, and Blanche Glana née Rye, the daughter of a veterinary surgeon. He was educated at Spring Road State School and then won an entrance scholarship to Melbourne Grammar School in 1921. He held prizes in English, French, Latin, Greek, Greek and Roman history, scripture and map drawing. He was dux of the school, and held university exhibitions in Greek, and in Greek and Roman history. He went on to Melbourne University, where he held exhibitions in anatomy, physiology, pathology, bacteriology, surgery, and in obstetrics and gynaecology, and gained first class honours. He proceeded to train at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

He subsequently went to the UK, where he studied at St Bartholomew's Hospital, gained his FRCS, and was a resident surgical officer at St Mark's Hospital, with Milligan, Morgan, Gabriel and Lloyd Davies.

During the second world war he served with the 4th, 116th and 121st Australian General Hospitals, in the Middle East, New Guinea and Australia. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

After the war, he was appointed to the honorary staff of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, which he served from 1948 to 1968. He also held the positions of consulting surgeon to the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital (from 1946 to 1973) and to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute (1955 to 1968). He served on the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria from 1955 to 1981, and was the founder of its public education committee.

In his early career he had an interest in surgery of the large bowel, and made major contributions to the understanding of the pathology and treatment of strangulated haemorrhoids. He later took an interest in breast disease. After his appointment as Robert Fowler travelling fellow in clinical cancer research in 1961 he introduced mammography into Australia, and pioneered adjuvant chemotherapy in the treatment of breast cancer.

In 1940 he married Joan Rowell, a writer and literary critic and the daughter of John Rowell, an artist. They had one daughter, Judy, and two sons, Peter and Michael. He read voraciously, enjoyed music and played the violin in the Zelman Memorial Orchestra. He painted and also enjoyed boating and fishing. He died on 12 October 1994.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Chiron, the University of Melbourne Medical Society, Vol.3, No.3, April 1995, with portrait; The Australian 2 November 1994, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England