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Biographical entry Thomas, Sir James William Tudor (1893 - 1976)

Kt 1956; MRCS 1915; FRCS 1925; BSc Wales 1913; MB BCh 1916; MS DSc 1931; MB BS London 1916; Hon LLD Glas 1954; LRCP 1915.

23 May 1893
Ystradgynlais, Breconshire
23 January 1976
Ophthalmic surgeon


James William Tudor Thomas was born in Ystradgynlais, Breconshire, on 23 May 1893, the only child of Thomas Thomas, headmaster of Ystradgynlais County School, and Mary, daughter of a colliery proprietor, he was educated at the county school, Cardiff Medical School and the Middlesex Hospital. He won the Alfred Sheen Prize in anatomy and physiology in 1911 and graduated BSc in 1913. After taking the Conjoint Diploma in 1915, he graduated MB BCh, the first to do so from the University of Wales in 1916, and MB BS, London, winning the Leopold Hudson Prize. He held house appointments at Swansea General Hospital and joined the RAMC, serving in Africa where he developed an interest in ophthalmology. After the war he was a clinical assistant at Moorfields Hospital and at the Central London Ophthalmic Hospital. He then became honorary ophthalmic surgeon to the King Edward VII National Memorial Association at Cardiff and to the Mountain Ash and Maesteg Hospitals. He was appointed honorary ophthalmic surgeon to Cardiff Royal Infirmary and lecturer in ophthalmology in 1921.

Tudor Thomas was a pioneer of corneal grafting. His early experimental work was an important contribution to the advances that have been made. He was amongst the first to translate laboratory work into clinical practice at Moorfields Hospital, and thousands of patients owe the preservation or restoration of their sight to this form of transplantation. He became FRCS in 1925, proceeded MD and MS in 1929, and DSc in 1931, the year in which he was elected Hunterian Professor at the College.

He was ophthalmic adviser to the Welsh Regional Hospital Board and its Chairman, a member of the Board of Governors of the United Cardiff Hospitals and, in 1948, Chairman of the Welsh region of the Consultants and Specialists Committee. Before the second world war he conceived the idea of a registration bureau for the collection and use of donor material at the Central London Ophthalmic Hospital, where he was associate surgeon in charge of the corneo-plastic department. An eye bank was formed at East Grinstead and in 1952, the Corneal Grafting Act became law. He was elected to the Council of the BMA in 1949 and when it was decided that the 1953 Annual Meeting would be held in Cardiff, the local division unanimously suggested that he be elected President for 1953-54. Both Council and the Representative Body agreed and he presided over the meeting in Cardiff. He served on a number of the central committees of the BMA and in 1954, he was invited by the council to tour its branches and divisions in the Middle and Far East. Soon after his return the BMA elected him a Vice-President. The University of Glasgow conferred on him the honorary degree of LLD in the same year.

He delivered the Middlemore Lecture at the Birmingham and Midlands Eye Hospital in 1933, the Montgomery Lecture at Trinity College, Dublin in 1936, and the Doyne Memorial Lecture at the Oxford Ophthalmological Congress in 1955. He was elected Master of the Oxford Ophthalmological Congress for 1956-58 and President of the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom, in 1966-68. In 1956, he was appointed Sheriff of Breconshire and elevated Knight Bachelor.

He married in 1938, Bronwen Vaughan Pugh, daughter of a pharmacist, and they had two sons, one of whom is a medical graduate. Sir Tudor died on 23 January 1976 in his 83rd year, survived by his wife and sons.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1976, 2, 345; The Times 26 January 1976].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England