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Biographical entry McNair, Thomas Jaffrey (1927 - 1994)

CBE 1988; MRCS and FRCS 1956; MB ChB Edinburgh 1949; MD 1960; FRCS Edinburgh 1955; Hon FRACS 1988; FRCP Edinburgh.

1 March 1927
27 April 1994
General surgeon


Thomas McNair was born on 1 March 1927 in Edinburgh, the son of David MacMillan McNair, a mining engineer, and his wife Helen Jackson, née Rae. He received his education at George Watson's College before entering the medical school at Edinburgh University where he qualified in 1949. He served in the Royal Air Force before returning to Edinburgh to continue his training as a surgeon. He was influenced by Sir James Learmonth, Millar and Farquharson, and was appointed clinical tutor at the Royal Infirmary and at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

He travelled to the United States and became instructor in surgery at the University of Illinois. On his return to Edinburgh he started his specialist career in the surgery of the colon and obtained the Edinburgh MD and the FRCS of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; but this was not his only interest because he was elected to the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and served on it from 1964 to 1974. He was appointed Surgeon to the Queen in Scotland in 1977 and was elected President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1985.

He was a leading light in the debates about the future of British surgery and travelled widely throughout the world, receiving the honorary FRACS and the FRCP in Edinburgh. He contributed chapters to Hamilton Bailey's Emergency surgery for the 8th and 9th editions. Finally he was rewarded for his services to surgery by receiving the CBE in 1988.

His main hobbies were sailing and golf. On 21 April 1951 he married Sybil Wood who was a consultant pathologist and became a senior lecturer in pathology at the University of Edinburgh. They had a son, Alastair, who became a lawyer, and a daughter, Sally, who became a journalist.

He died on 27 April 1994, survived by his wife and family.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1994 309 469].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England