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Biographical entry Thompson, Walter (1866 - 1924)

MRCS Nov 10th 1887; FRCS May 14th 1891; LRCP Lond 1887.

12 May 1924
General surgeon


The son of a farmer in Wharfedale, Yorkshire. He was educated at the Leeds Medical School, and in Berlin, where he occupied the same lodgings as his lifelong friend, Sir Berkeley Moynihan (later Lord Moynihan).

On beginning to practise in Leeds he devoted himself to surgery, and eventually became a leading operating surgeon in Yorkshire. At the time of his death he was Consulting Surgeon to the Leeds General Infirmary, Hon Consulting Surgeon to the Coronation Hospital, Ilkley, and to the Malton Cottage Hospital. He had also been Lecturer in the Practice of Surgery to the University of Leeds, and Hon Surgeon to the Leeds Public Dispensary and the Leeds Hospital for Women and Children.

During the European War he served for about a year in Salonica, and then as Lieutenant-Colonel RAMC (T) took charge of the Beckett Street Military Hospital to the end of the campaign. He did excellent work in both positions, although not in the best of health when he volunteered for active service.

Lord Moynihan, in an eloquent eulogy of his friend (British Medical Journal, 1924, i, 937), speaks of his genius for friendship, his gravity of utterance, and sanity of outlook:

"I met him for the first time on the day I joined the Leeds School of Medicine….Our whole curriculum was passed together….I never knew an honester man….As a surgeon he was a fine example of the Leeds School. He was quite undemonstrative, cautious, exact, and safe. There was no display in anything he did. Every movement fulfilled its exact purpose. He showed the competence and the invaluable precision of the man who, sure of himself, is a master in the medium in which he works. I never saw him hasty or negligent or bewildered by any event, however unforeseen, in any operation, however difficult."

Dr C M Smeeton, of Malton, gives an interesting picture of Thompson in the lonely country, whither he was called to operate:-

"It has fallen to my lot to practise in a widely scattered country district, and from my first coming it was my good fortune to be able to call him to my help, and to share close friendship with him for forty years. No hospital was near, and he did many abdominal sections in cottages, in farm and country houses….He became widely known, and any operation would be faced cheerfully if it was known that Walter Thompson would operate."

The same writer speaks of his great inspiriting laugh, and of how he came to be trusted and loved in lonely cottages and isolated farmhouses.

In November, 1923, he underwent an operation for an internal malady at the hands of Lord Moynihan. He died at his residence in Headingley, Leeds, on May 12th, 1924, being survived by his widow and a small family. He had practised at 30 Park Square, Leeds.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England