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Biographical entry James, Thomas Geraint Illtyd (1900 - 1996)

MRCS 1924; FRCS 1928; BSc Wales 1921; MB ChB 1925; MCh 1932; FRCS Edinburgh 1927; LRCP 1924.

12 July 1900
Barry, Glamorgan
21 December 1996
General surgeon and Neurosurgeon


Illtyd James was born in Barry, Glamorgan, on 12 July 1900, the eldest son of Evan Thomas James, a master tailor, and Elizabeth Jones, a farmer's daughter. He was educated at Barry County School, where he held a county scholarship, and later at University College Cardiff (where he took a BSc in 1921) and the Welsh National School of Medicine. He qualified MRCS, LRCP in 1924 and in the following year took his MB ChB with honours. As an undergraduate he was awarded the Alfred Sheen prize in anatomy in 1921 and the Maclean medal and prize in gynaecology and obstetrics in 1925. After qualification he worked on the professorial unit as a house physician and later as a house surgeon in general surgery and in obstetrics and gynaecology before being appointed resident medical officer at Cardiff Royal Infirmary. He worked for Professor Sir Ewen Maclean and Professor A M Kennedy, among others. He obtained his Fellowship of the College in 1928, having passed the Fellowship of the Edinburgh College in 1927. In 1932 he passed the mastership of surgery of the University of Wales.

Once his surgical training had been completed he moved to London and was appointed surgeon at the Central Middlesex Hospital, where he practised in both general surgery and neurosurgery for the remainder of his working life. At the outset of the second world war he was nearly forty years old and he remained at the Central Middlesex, where he provided specialist advice in neurosurgery and particularly head injuries for Sector 12 of the Emergency Medical Service. Professor Ashcroft at the Middlesex Hospital had been called up for military service and James became the consultant on call for that hospital too: it was this association which was to cement a powerful link between the Middlesex and Central Middlesex Hospitals. When the war ended he was the first person from the Central Middlesex to be invited to sit on the academic board of the Middlesex Hospital. He was greatly in demand as an examiner and, in addition to being Chairman of the Court of Examiners at the College from 1963 to 1965, he was examiner in surgery at both London and Liverpool Universities. His publications date back to 1930, when he published his first paper on achlorhydria and from then a steady stream of papers appeared until thirty six years later when he published a paper on tumours of the stomach other than carcinoma, but in addition he published many papers on neurosurgical topics and on the history of medicine.

In 1932 he married Dorothy Marguerite John, and they had two sons, both of whom followed their father into medicine - one becoming a GP and the other, Peter, becoming a histopathologist at Nottingham University Hospital. The long and happy marriage ended in 1993 with the death of his wife. Although he was by now ninety three years of age he continued to live alone in his home at Ealing where he looked after himself. His retirement was no less active than his medical life had been, and he studied both Welsh and classical literature, taught himself Russian and became an ardent gardener and painter of miniatures. He died on 21 December 1996, survived by his younger son Peter, his elder son having pre-deceased him.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1997 314 379, with portrait; The Times 22 January 1997, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England