Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Jones, Thomas (1848 - 1900)

MRCS May 17th 1870; FRCS Dec 20th 1875; LSA 1872; MB Lond 1872; BS 1879.

18 October 1848
18 June 1900
Springfontein, South Africa
General surgeon


Born on Oct 18th, 1848, the son of David Jones, of Derlwyn, Carmarthenshire, a well-to-do yeoman, and a fine type of the best Welsh Puritan stock, who took an active part in public life, was a Justice of the Peace, a prominent Congregationalist, and did excellent service in initiating and promoting a better educational system in Wales. Thomas Jones received his early education at Derlwyn College, which his father had established, went to the Normal College at Swansea, and from there matriculated at London University. He gained the Gold Medal in organic chemistry and materia medica and honours in anatomy at the 1st MB examination in the University of London, and honours in medicine and was accounted worthy of the Medal in midwifery at the final MB in 1872; he was first in honours at the BS examination in 1879. He became resident pupil at the Northern Hospital, Liverpool, in 1865, and at the same time attended classes of lectures at the Liverpool School of Medicine. He then became a student at Guy's Hospital, where he remained six years. Here he was dresser to John Poland, a post for which there was always keen competition; for, himself a brilliant surgeon, Poland was generous to his dressers in allowing them to perform major operations under his direct supervision. In due course Jones served the office of House Surgeon.

Jones's main life-work was at Manchester and was full of interest. He started in practice in 1873 and was one of the first to set up as a pure consulting and operating surgeon in Manchester. He was elected Resident Surgical Officer to the Manchester Royal Infirmary in 1872. From 1873-1876 he was Pathological Registrar, Surgical Registrar from 1876-1879, Assistant Surgeon in 1879 on the retirement of George Bowring (qv), and full Surgeon in 1880 on the death of Samuel Bradley, retaining this position at the time of his early death. He was appointed Lecturer on Practical and Operative Surgery at Owens College in 1880, and in 1890 was elected Professor of Systematic Surgery at this College in connection with the Victoria University, where he became by virtue of this office Examiner in Surgery. He was also the first Operating Surgeon to the Children's Hospital, Pendlebury, from 1874-1880, being appointed Consulting Surgeon in the latter year. Little surgical work was done in the Pendlebury Hospital at the time of his appointment, and operations of urgency were undertaken by the physicians, but his skill and energy soon attracted a large number of surgical patients. He took the keenest interest in this hospital and raised it to a high position among kindred institutions. At the Cancer Pavilion and Home he laboured most actively as Surgeon. He was also President of the Manchester Medical Society in 1891 and a prominent member of the British Medical Association.

Jones spoke Welsh fluently; he was a loyal and ardent Welshman, and always took a deep interest in the affairs of the Principality. He was a Member of the Council of the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth and a generous contributor to its funds. It was in great measure his devotion to his native country that constrained him to yield, after deliberate consideration, to the pressure put upon him to become Chief Surgeon to the Welsh Hospital and to proceed to South Africa without fee or reward. A provisional committee for the Welsh Hospital for South Africa was formed in February, 1900. It included such influential members as Sir John Williams, Dr F T Roberts, Dr Isambard Owen, Edmund Owen (qv), and Thomas Jones. The Organizing Secretary was Professor Alfred Hughes (qv), of King's College, London. Professor Jones's colleagues as Surgeons on the staff of the Welsh Hospital were J Lynn Thomas, FRCS, Assistant Surgeon to the Cardiff Infirmary, and R H Mills-Roberts, FRCS Edin, Surgeon to the Llanberis Quarries Hospital. The Assistant Surgeons were E Laming Evans, FRCS, late House Surgeon, St Bartholomew's Hospital, and Herbert Davies, MB, ChB Viet, late Senior House Surgeon at the Stoke-on-Trent Infirmary. With these were five dressers and nine or ten nurses. The hospital funds amounted to some £12,000, to which Queen Victoria subscribed £100, and the hospital itself was open to the troops at large, irrespective of nationality.

Jones had been granted six months' leave by the authorities at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. The hospital left England on April 14th, 1900. On arrival at Cape Town, Jones went at once to Bloemfontein, and stayed there several weeks pending the establishment of the hospital at Springfontein, Orange River Colony. He joined it towards the end of May, and worked admirably as Senior Surgeon in charge of the hospital. On June 16th he became mentally prostrated, and died on June 18th, 1900. The Manchester contingent of the Welsh Hospital was strangely unfortunate, for of the five members of the surgical staff who volunteered from this district, three died in South Africa: Professor Jones himself, Dr Herbert Davies, who had been his House Surgeon at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, and Mr Eames, one of the surgical dressers.

Jones was an admirable and luminous teacher, a most dexterous operator, a singularly genial and straightforward man, and he may be said to have possessed the charm peculiar to the best type of Welshman. Dr Frederick Roberts wrote of him:-

"Professor Thomas Jones, familiarly known to his students and friends as Tom Jones', has been, I might almost say, a protégé of mine since the commencement of his professional career, and I have watched his progress with affectionate interest. Coming from the same county in Wales as myself, I was well acquainted with his family, and to this fact is owing his first start in the profession, which I feel sure had a great influence in turning his attention to surgery, and in making him such a renowned and brilliant surgeon as he afterwards proved to be. After he had matriculated his father wrote to me asking my advice as to what he should do with him, as he thought him too young to go to London. I strongly recommended him to send the youth to the Liverpool Northern Hospital, to which I was at that time physician, as resident pupil, and he acted upon my advice. It so happened that the house-surgeons during the period of his residence were most proficient and skilful, especially one of them, and they took a particular interest in young Jones, teaching him the 'art' of surgery, in the way of setting fractures, bandaging, treating wounds, etc, and even allowing him to perform operations of different kinds. The consequence was that when he left Liverpool and went to Guy's Hospital as a first year's student he knew a great deal more about surgery, and was more skilful practically, than the large majority of students are at the end of their career. He was then one of the neatest bandagers I have ever seen, and to watch him put up a fracture was a treat."

Professor Jones married in 1881 the daughter of Mr Boyd, of Cheadle Hulme. He was survived by his widow and an only daughter. Good portraits of him accompany his biographies in the Lancet (1900, ii, 60) and British Medical Journal (1900, i, 1617). The face is typically Cymric, and the portraits are interesting as showing the type of khaki uniform worn by army surgeons in the Boer War.

Diseases of the Bones: their Pathology, Diagnosis, and Treatment, 8vo, 16 plates, Manchester, 1887. This is his best-known book and is a valuable monograph, based on his own experiences and investigations.
Asepsis in General Surgery. Address delivered on the occasion of taking the Chair as President of the Manchester Medical Society, Feb 4th,1891; 8vo, Manchester, 1891.
"Resection of Ankle for Accident and Disease." - Brit Med Jour, 1883, 908.
"Total Extirpation of Larynx for Epithelloma." - Lancet, 1884, ii, 191.
"Clinical Remarks on Gastrostomy." - Ibid, 1884, ii, 223.
"Successful Gastrostomy in Non-malignant Stricture of Oesophagus." - Ibid, 1882, i, 14.
"Injuries and Diseases of the Ankle-joint" (with J E PLATT) - Encyclop Med, 1899, etc.
He published many papers in the medical journals, especially in the Med Chronicle, of which he was one of the first and most zealous promoters.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Med Chronicle, Manchester, 1900, iii, 3rd ser, 241, with two portraits and a bibliography].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England