Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Walker, Thomas James (1835 - 1916)

MRCS May 1st 1857; FRCS (elected as a Member of twenty years' standing) April 9th 1908; LSA 1857; MB Lond (University scholarship and medal in anatomy and physiology) 1857; MD 1861; JP; VD.

18 August 1835
19 July 1916
General surgeon


Born at Peterborough on Aug 18th, 1835, the son of Dr Thomas Walker, a native of Dumfriesshire who traced descent from John Knox, the Reformer. Thomas Walker practised in Peterborough, where both he and his wife lived to be over ninety years of age.

Thomas James Walker went to the King's School, Peterborough, and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, whilst also graduating with honours at the University of London. He acted as Demonstrator of Anatomy under Professor Goodsir, and was next appointed Resident Medical Tutor and Demonstrator of Anatomy at the newly founded Queen's College, Birmingham; in 1858 he was appointed Assistant Physician and Pathologist to Queen's Hospital. This post he resigned in 1860 and went to study laryngology in Vienna under Czermak, who was demonstrating the clinical importance of the laryngoscope. He returned home to join his father in practice at Peterborough, and in the Lancet (1861, ii, 444) reported the first removal in Great Britain of a laryngeal polypus under the guidance of the mirror.

He was appointed Surgeon to the Peterborough Infirmary in 1862, warmly adopted Lister's methods upon their publication, and was instrumental in getting the operating theatre reconstructed. He was a successful ovariotomist and performed gastrojejunostomy with success in 1894; he was a dexterous lithotomist when vesical calculus was still a common complaint in the Eastern Counties. His reputation as a surgeon spread over a wide area.

He practised at 33 Westgate, Peterborough. At the International Medical Congress in 1881 he was one of the Secretaries of the Section of Laryngology; he was a member of the first Council of the Royal Society of Medicine of London, and was President of the local branch of the British Medical Association.

Walker was a man of wide general culture, an archaeologist who collected Roman and Saxon remains about Peterborough and at Caistor. He undertook a research at the Public Record Office and locally into the history of the French prisoners-of-war confined at Norman Cross, Huntingdonshire, between 1796 and 1816. In 1892-1893 and in 1911 he was President of the Peterborough Natural History and Archaeological Society, also Secretary of the British Archaeological Association at the meeting at Peterborough in 1862. In early days an enthusiastic volunteer, he rose to be Lieutenant-Colonel and was given the Volunteer Decoration.

He rode well, hunting with the FitzWilliam hounds, and he was a good amateur actor. In local politics he urged reform, was a moderate advocate of temperance, and was chiefly instrumental in establishing a Public Library in Peterborough. Owing to pressure of practice he declined to sit on the Town Council or to act as Mayor. As a Freemason he served as WM of St Peter's Lodge No 442. A liberal but strong churchman, he helped much towards the preservation and restoration of the Cathedral; from being a thorough-going Whig he ended as President of the Unionist Association.

The Freedom of the City of Peterborough was conferred upon him on his eightieth birthday, Aug 18th, 1915, and he was the second Honorary Freeman, Andrew Carnegie being the first. Seven hundred subscribers presented him with his portrait by Fiddes Watt, ARSA, painted in oils, on Dec 22nd, 1915. Until eighteen months before his death he continued fully active, then troubles came. His wife died after fifty years of married life; a few months later his partner for forty years, George Kirkwood, also died. His strength failed, and after a month's illness he too died on July 19th, 1916.

He married in 1865 his cousin, the daughter of the Rev Josiah Walker, Vicar of Wood Ditton, Cambridgeshire. Of the thirteen children of this marriage four followed their father's profession: three in partnership with him - Walter, Alec, and J Walker - and Captain Russell Walker, RAMC. Four other sons were serving in the Army and Navy at the time of his death. He left estate £33,720, and bequeathed his collection of local antiquities to the Corporation.

On the Laryngoscope and its Clinical Application, 8vo, London, 1864, after a series of papers in the Brit Med Jour and Med Times and Gaz. For 1863. Laryngeal Disease as Exhibited by the Laryngoscope, 8vo, London, 1864.
"Larynx", "Trachea", and "Diseases of Voice," in Quain's Dictionary of Medicine, 1882.
A Retrospect of Laryngology, 1860, 1910, 1913.
The Depot for French Prisoners at Norman Cross, 1796-1816, 2nd ed, 1913. A number of communications on clinical medicine and surgery.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1916, ii, 246, with portrait. Brit Med Jour, 1916, ii, 167, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England