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Biographical entry Thompson, Arthur Ralph (1876 - 1955)

MRCS 1 August 1901; FRCS 11 December 1902; LRCP 1901; MB ChB Victoria University 1901; ChM 1907.

3 September 1876
16 October 1955
Anatomist and Urological surgeon


Born on 3 September 1876 son of Vincent Thomas Thompson QC, Assistant Recorder of Leeds, he came of a family many of whose members distinguished themselves through three or four generations in law, medicine, and administrative or academic work; they were related by marriage to similar prominent professional families such as the Brodies and de Morgans. Reginald Thompson FRCP, physician to Brompton Hospital, was his uncle.

He was educated at Leeds Medical School and Guy's Hospital, and studied in Paris. While at Guy's he was a strong "forward" in the Rugby XV and later played for Barbarians. Qualifying in 1901 he was a house surgeon at the Victoria Hospital for Children, Shadwell, and at Guy's successively demonstrator of anatomy, anaesthetist, surgical registrar, and the first resident surgical officer. While demonstrator of anatomy he wrote a classic paper on dislocation of the hip in infants. Under the influence of Arbuthnot Lane, then the outstanding personality at Guy's, he kept up his anatomical studies, gave a Hunterian lecture at the College in 1908 on the anatomy of long bones in relation to fractures, and became a vice-president of the Anatomical Society.

He was appointed in 1910 to be the first surgeon-in-charge of the new genito-urinary department at Guy's, a post he held till retirement in 1936, when he was appointed a consulting surgeon emeritus, for he had built up the department admirably to the highest standards. During the war of 1914-18 he also served at the Grove War Hospital, Tooting. He was President of the Section of Urology in the Royal Society of Medicine in 1931-32, and a member of the International Society of Urology. He examined in anatomy for the Primary Fellowship 1918-23, and was secretary and vice-president of the Chelsea Clinical Society.

His great ability and experience were offset by faults of social character. Absolutely honest, he was absolutely without tact, cultivated his prejudices, and was so blunt of speech that he was nicknamed "Rudy". When asked why he wore a bowler hat in the wards, he replied "To annoy the Matron". His uninhibited comments lost him friends and virtually destroyed his private practice, but he was his own only enemy; to those who could bear his mannerisms he was an amusing well-informed companion, and he did acts of kindness by stealth.

During the years 1944-53 he was an assessor to the Ministry of Pensions, and a frequent visitor to the College. He had practised at 143 Harley Street and 31 Queen's Gate Terrace.

He married in 1906 Florence Wansey who survived him with their two sons and two daughters. He died in Guy's Hospital on 16 October 1955, aged 79, and a memorial service was held in the Hospital Chapel on 28 October.

Joint author with Sir Alfred Fripp: Human anatomy for art students. London 1911. Excision of the hip-joint. Guy's Hosp Rep. 1905, 59, 347.
Relationship between the internal structure of the upper part of the femur and fractures through the base of the neck of the femur. (Hunterian Lecture) J Anat. 1907-08, 42, 60.
Figures relative to congenital abnormalities of the upper urinary tract, and its surgical anatomy. 1913-14, 48, 280.
The capacity of, and pressure of fluid in the urinary bladder. J Anat. 1918-19, 53, 241.
Primary union in operations on bladder and prostate. Proc Roy Soc Med. 1923, 16, Urology, p. 47.
Some features of the elbow joint. Journal of Anatomy 1923-24, 58, 368.
Some points in connection with the successful issue of simple prostatectomy. (Presidential address, Section of Urology.) Proc Roy Soc Med. 1931-32, 25; 907.
Homer's surgery. Manchester Univ Med Sch Gaz. 1954, 33, 238; summary in Proc Roy Soc Med, History section, 1953, 45, 765.
Recollections. Guy's Hosp Gaz. 1951, 65, 347, 363, 384, 409, 425, 447, 466, 494; 1953, 67, 277; and 1954, 68, 73.
These "Recollections" show Thompson at his best: generous, amusing, but never unkind character sketches of surgeons and anatomists whom he had known since his student days, with sufficient technical detail to make them interesting as a record of the surgery which he had seen or practised.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J. 1955, 2, 1273; Lancet, 1955, 2, 1092 with appreciation by Sir Heneage Ogilvie, and correction at p 1202; Guy's Hosp Gaz. 1955, 69, 455 by WDD; personal knowledge].

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