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Biographical entry Tonks, John Wilson (1888 - 1931)

MRCS 9 November 1911; FRCS 11 June 1914; MB BCh Cambridge 1914; MA MB 1925.

14 February 1888
4 May 1931
General surgeon and Obstetric Surgeon


Born on 14 February at 43 Oxford Street, Wednesbury, the son of Samuel Tonks, retired commercial traveller, and Edith Jennie Ross Wilson, his wife. He was educated at Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall under J A Alldis and H Bompas Smith. Admitted to Caius College, Cambridge on 1 October 1906, he was elected an exhibitioner in 1907 and a scholar in 1908. He graduated BA in 1908, after being placed in the first-class in part 1 of the Natural Sciences Tripos. Proceeding to University College, London, he took the Fellowes silver medal in surgery and the gold medal in medicine. In 1914 he joined the firm of Sir Josiah and Dr Arthur Court of Staveley, Derbyshire, a large and busy general practice in a coal and iron district. He entered the Army in the following year at the beginning of the war, and worked as surgical specialist first in Bombay and afterwards in the tenth Burma division. During this period he was specially commended by the Government of Burma for services rendered to a wounded officer away in the hills. Tonks travelled seventy-four miles through difficult country on a pony, taking upwards of thirty hours on the journey, performed a major operation upon the patient under the most primitive conditions, and was rewarded with success.

He returned to Staveley in 1919, and was appointed surgeon to the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal Hospital, where he soon became known for his surgical skill. In 1929 he gave up general practice, having been appointed obstetric surgeon to the Chesterfield Maternity Hospital in July 1922. He was also consulting surgeon to the Derbyshire County Sanatorium at Walton near Chesterfield. Tonks married on 10 July 1915 Ellinor May Evans, who survived him with one son. He died at 15 Gladstone Road, Chesterfield on 4 May 1931 and was buried at Staveley, Derbyshire. Tonks was a good organizer and an all-round athlete. He once said that, with the exception of bowls, he did not know of any game he had not played.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1931, 1, 871; information given by Mrs Tonks, and J A Stirling, MOH, Chesterfield].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England