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Biographical entry Lannon, Joseph (1911 - 1990)

MRCS and FRCS 1938; MB Witwatersrand 1934.

11 March 1911
30 October 1990
Anatomist and Paediatric surgeon


Joseph Lannon was born on 11 March 1911. He was educated at the University of Witwatersrand and after qualifying in 1934 proceeded to train as a surgeon, passing the FRCS in 1938. During the second world war he joined the New Zealand forces and served in the New Zealand General Hospital in North Africa, transferring later to the South African Medical Corps, serving in 8SA casualty clearing station and then in 8A field ambulance station which was involved in the battle of El Alamein and for which he was decorated. He returned to South Africa in 1943, being demobilised in 1945 with the rank of Major.

After the war he practised in Johannesburg and was surgeon at the Benoni Boksburg, Johannesburg, General and North East hospitals. He was one of the early specialist paediatric surgeons at the Memorial Hospital for Children. He was also a very competent and much respected part-time lecturer in anatomy. In 1949 he was awarded the Hamilton Maynard Prize for his paper on the previously unknown parasympathetic nerve pathways to the colon and the anatomy of the lumbar ganglia.

He enjoyed English literature, the classics and the history of medicine. He encouraged the students at the Witwatersrand Medical School to re-establish a history of medicine society and was remembered for a very entertaining talk on one of his favourite topics, the diseases of Napoleon. His interest in literature emerged through passing literary allusions in his lectures. A former student of his recalled his viva with Lannon. He was asked about carpal bones and the student mumbled the mnemonic about Hamlet and Polonius. When asked what he was mumbling Lannon inquired who Hamlet and Polonius were and, the answer being unsatisfactory, the student was sent to the Library in his lunch hour to read the play and anything else he could find on the two characters. He returned afterwards to give Mr Lannon a discourse on the subject!

Joss, as he was fondly known, died on 30 October 1990, survived by his son Michael, a doctor, and his daughter, Christine.

Sources used to compile this entry: [SA med J 1991, 79, 59-60 with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England