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Biographical entry Thane, Sir George Dancer (1850 - 1930)

Knight Bachelor 1919; MRCS Nov 15th 1871; FRCS (by election) April 1st 1909; LLD Edin 1906; Hon ScD Dublin 1912.

27 May 1850
Great Berkhamsted
15 January 1930
Harrow, Middlesex


Born on May 27th, 1850, at Great Berkhamsted, the eldest son of George Dancer Thane, MD St Andrews, who practised in Hart Street, Bloomsbury. He entered University College, London, in 1867 and was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy to Professor G Viner Ellis (qv) in 1870, a year before he obtained the diploma of MRCS. He succeeded Viner Ellis as Professor of Anatomy at University College in 1877 and retained the chair until 1919, when he was elected Emeritus Professor. As Professor of Anatomy he trained some brilliant men who acted as his demonstrators, amongst them being Rickman J Godlee (qv), Quarry Silcock (qv), Bilton Pollard, S G Shattock (qv), and Charles Stonham (qv). For many years he was Inspector of Anatomy and Inspector under the Vivisection Acts. Both positions were delicate and full of difficulties, but he carried out the duties tactfully and without friction. On Dec 8th, 1881, he was elected a member of the Physiological Society, which was then a small body of working physiologists. Numerous honours came to him. He was created a Knight Bachelor in 1919; was President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1896; was a member of the French and German Anatomical Societies, of the Anthropological Society of Paris, and of the Royal Society of Upsala. The Royal College of Surgeons elected him FRCS; the University of Edinburgh conferred upon him the honorary degree of LLD, and the University of Dublin that of ScD. He was for many years Dean of the Medical Faculty at University College, and throughout his active career he was in constant request as an examiner in anatomy at numerous universities and examining boards throughout England and Wales.

He married in 1884 Jenny, the eldest daughter of Aug Klingberg, of Stockholm, who survived him with two daughters. He died at his home, 19 St John's Road, Harrow, Middlesex, on Jan 15th, 1930, and was buried at Highgate Cemetery.

Thane was a man of encyclopaedic anatomical knowledge, and was one of the British representatives at the Basle conference where a new anatomical nomenclature was evolved which did not meet with his approval. In 1850 G Viner Ellis (qv) succeeded Jones Quain, the first Professor of Anatomy at University College, and in 1877 Thane succeeded Ellis. Ellis's conception of teaching anatomy was an insistence upon the exact observation of fact and a clear and restrained expression of what he exposed by dissection, for he regarded an interest in the subject as outside the aims of a teacher. Without sacrificing any of the discipline of precise observation and lucid expression, Thane made the study of human anatomy a humane occupation and threw into his teaching the whole force of his personality. He became keenly interested in his pupils individually, and from 1874-1914 kept a detailed students' register, written in a careful hand, with red ink for failures and purple ink for successes. In regard to rules and regulations he was a martinet, and was intolerant of smoking, yet his class was orderly, not from fear but from a real desire on the part of his pupils to stand well in his sight.

He edited Ellis's Anatomy and was for many years responsible for the purely anatomical portions of Quain's Anatomy. Here his powers of lucid description, combined with brevity and informed by his extensive knowledge, made the successive issues examples of what may be done by a competent editor.

Edited Ellis's Demonstrations of Anatomy, 8vo, London, 1887 and 1890.
Edited Jones Quain's Elements of Anatomy, 9th and 10th ed, 8vo, London. Appendix to Jones Quain's Elements of Anatomy - "Superficial and Surgical Anatomy" (with R J GODLEE), 10th ed, 8vo, 1896.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 1930, Jan 16. Lancet, 1930, i, 214, with portrait - not a very good likeness. Brit Med Jour, 1930, i, 175, with portrait. Nature, 1930, 125, p 281].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England