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Biographical entry Nunn, Thomas William (1825 - 1909)

MRCS Dec 18th 1846; FRCS May 23rd 1857.

Royston, Herefordshire
13 April 1909
Royston, Herefordshire
Anatomist and General surgeon


Born at Royston, Herts, in 1825, the eldest son of William Nunn, MRCS, who practised in Royston for many years. William Nunn's father, Thomas Nunn, was a surgeon in the Navy, and the wife of this Naval surgeon was a descendant of Sir Edmond Butts, Physician to Henry VIII. Both the father and mother of T W Nunn were members of the Society of Friends.

Nunn was educated at a private school in the country, and at the age of 17 entered as a medical student at King's College, London, finding himself among distinguished contemporaries, Fergusson being then one of the prominent teachers in the Medical Department. He was much befriended by R Partridge, then Professor of Anatomy, who appointed him one of his Student Demonstrators, and by John Simon. Qualifying at the age of 21, he obtained the post of Demonstrator of Anatomy in the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, which had then been established about eleven years in succession to the famous Hunterian School, and proved very popular, his demonstrations being largely attended. At about this time he was appointed Surgeon to the Westminster Western Dispensary, and here in 1849 he succeeded in ligaturing the external iliac artery, which made no little stir in London surgery at the time. He now began to publish his works on varicose veins and on anatomical subjects, and in 1858 was elected Assistant Surgeon to Middlesex Hospital, becoming full Surgeon in 1863, and Consulting Surgeon in 1879. His wards included those set apart for the treatment of cancer as well as the general wards, and his publications bear witness to his interest in and knowledge of malignant disease.

Nunn was devoted to the welfare of the student, and was Secretary of the flourishing Middlesex Hospital Club from 1869-1883, being the last of the original members at the time of his death. He taught anatomy for sixteen years and then practical and operative surgery till 1873. As a teacher he was deservedly popular, and his old pupils referred affectionately to 'Tommy Nunn', who lightened their labours with his good humour and facilitated their comprehension of difficult matters by his skill as a draughtsman and frequent colloquial expressions. Eminently practical and always kind, Nunn set a fine example in dealing with patients, who were likewise his friends, in the days when medical teaching was perhaps less academic than it is to-day.

Greatly interested in military matters, Nunn served in his early days as a combatant officer in the 3rd Middlesex Militia, and in a few years took a medical commission in the West Middlesex Rifle Volunteers, from which he retired as Hon Surgeon Major, receiving the Volunteer Decoration for his more than twenty years' service. Of this honour he was very proud. At the time of the Crimean War he had offered to form and join a medical company. Nunn for many years after 1879 kept up his connection with the Middlesex as a member of committees or as chairman at convivial meetings. At the time of his death he was Consulting Surgeon, not only to his own hospital, but also to the Central London Throat Hospital, and to the London Hospital for Skin Diseases, Fitzroy Square.

At one time he had seen a good deal of practice in Paris, where he was during the commune of 1871. Throughout the whole of his active professional life he lived in Stratford Place, but a few years before his death moved to 27 York Terrace, York Gate, NW, where he still saw some of his old patients. Latterly he spent part of his time at his country seat at Kneesworth, Royston; here he died on April 13th, 1909, and was buried in Royston Cemetery.

Nunn married: (1) Isabella, daughter of Kenneth Maclay, of Nevermore, Ross-shire, and (2) Rosalie, daughter of George White, of Kensington, who survived him. A good portrait of him accompanies his biography in the Middlesex Hospital Journal, 1909, xiii, 79. There is also a portrait of him in the College Collection and a photograph in the Fellows' Album.

Observations on Varicose Veins and Varicose Ulcers, 16mo, London, 1850. Inflammation of the Breast and Milk Abscess, 12mo, London, 1853.
Observations and Notes on the Arteries of the Limbs, illustrating the natural division of main arteries into what he termed segmental and trans-segmental branches for the supply of the proximal and distal segments of the limbs respectively, 8vo, London, 1858; 2nd ed, 1864; French translation in Jour de l'Anat et Physiol, 1874, x, 7.
Ward Manual: or Index of Surgical Diseases and Injuries, 8vo, London, 1865. On Cancer of the Breast, 4to, 21 coloured plates, London, 1882.
A Page in the History of Ovariotomy in London, 8vo, London, 1886.
On Certain Disregarded Defects of Development chiefly in Relation to the Curves of the Spine, 8vo, 2 plates, London, 1888.
Growing Children and Awkward Walking, 12mo, London, 1894.
Cancer Illustrated by One Thousand Cases from the Registers of the Middlesex Hospital and by Fifty Selected Cases of Cancer of the Breast, etc, 12mo, 11 plates, London, 1899.
The Inaugural Lecture, Session 1863-4, delivered at the Middlesex Hospital Medical College, 8vo, London, 1863.
Notes on Personal Hygiene, No. 1, 8vo, London, 1865.
"Maternal Conditions in Congenital Syphilis." - Brit Gynaecol Jour, 1891-2, vii, 435.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1909, i, 1360. Brit Med Jour, 1909, i, 1035].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England