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Biographical entry Wilson, Thomas George (1901 - 1969)

Hon FRCS 1963; MB BCh BAO Dublin 1923; FRCSI 1927; Hon FRCS Ed 1961; Hon FACS 1967.

6 November 1969
ENT surgeon


Tom Wilson, as he was known to his many friends, was born in Belfast and was educated at Mountjoy School, and Trinity College, Dublin. He qualified in 1923 MB BCh BAO Dublin. He played rugby football at Trinity and subsequently for several years in first-class club matches.

At first he turned to obstetrics and gynaecology at the Rotunda Hospital and took the licence in midwifery in 1924, but subsequently he adopted oto-laryngology as his life's work. He became a Fellow of the Royal College in Ireland in 1927 and obtained appointments to Dr Steven's, Drumcondra, the National Children's, Mercer's, Monkstown and the Royal City of Dublin Hospitals, all of which afforded him wide experience in diseases of the ear, nose and throat. He made a great success of his particular branch of medicine and surgery and his wide knowledge enabled him to write a book on diseases of the ear, nose and throat in children in 1955, with a second edition in 1962.

His association with, and his particular interest in, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland was such that in 1958 he was elected its President, a post he held with distinction for a record period of three years; throughout his association with the College he took an active part in its development and expansion, including the publication of the College journal and the establishment of a museum.

He was well known outside Ireland and became a representative on the Joint Conference of Surgical Colleges. He was also President of the Section of Otology and Laryngology of the Royal Society of Medicine in London and held a similar post in the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland. In 1964 he delivered the Semon Lecture in the University of London.

He had the distinction of being elected a member of the Collegium Oto-Laryngologicum, an international society devoted to the scientific aspect of these subjects, in addition to various contributions at meetings abroad. Tom Wilson was president of the reunion in Dublin in 1958, which he conducted with success both on the scientific and the social sides. An evaluation of the regard with which he was held is evidenced by his election to the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1963 and to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1961; in addition to these outstanding honours he was invited to accept Honorary Fellowship of the American College of Surgeons in 1967. By some who consider oto-laryngology to be a narrow branch of specialisation these were very eminent distinctions, but ones which he richly deserved.

Wilson's energies found outlet in directions other than medicine; he was fond of sailing and had a yacht Fenestia at Dun Loghaire, which used to be Kingstown. His love of the sea led to his election as a member of the Irish Lights, which necessitated visits to lighthouses and lightships, the landing being somewhat precarious in rough weather; subsequently he became chairman of the board.

Another outlet for his energies was fishing, which took him to the west of Ireland and especially to Connemara; both he and his wife were enthusiastic and skilled at the art. Painting was a favourite pastime and many pleasing pen and ink and oil and water colour studies of places at home and abroad came from his brush.

He wrote a well-known book on Sir William Wilde, father of Oscar, entitled Victorian doctor in 1942 and later contributed several articles on Dean Swift, a subject in which he was a recognized authority. Another subject was Babington, to whose family his wife Mary belonged; a contribution was made to the Section of History of Medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine, particularly concerned with the introduction of indirect laryngoscopy.

The last book he wrote was on the Irish Lighthouse Service, with many illustrations by himself in black and white and two in colours, with others in the text by his son Thomas.

His ability in painting and illustration was recognized by election as an Honorary Academician of the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts.

This history of his life does not truly indicate the esteem in which he was held in all circles; he had a great capacity for friendship and all who met him were proud to be in his company.

He married Mary, daughter of Sir Antony Babington, at one time Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. He had two sons, one of whom followed his father's branch of medicine and became surgeon in oto-laryngology to St George's Hospital, London, and afterwards succeeded to his father's practice; in addition he had two daughters. With the constant companionship of his wife and of his family his home life was very full and happy. He died on 6 November 1969 aged 68.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1969, 4, 500].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England