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Biographical entry Thompson, Vernon Cecil (1905 - 1995)

MRCS 1929; FRCS 1932; MB BS London 1932; LRCP 1929.

17 September 1905
Tidenham, Gloucestershire
27 November 1995
Thoracic surgeon


Vernon Thompson ('VCT') was born at Tutshill, Tidenham, Gloucestershire on 17 September 1905, his father, Cecil Charles Brandon Thompson, being a general practitioner and his mother, Dorothy Christian, née Ford, the daughter of a solicitor. He went to Seafield School, Bexhill-on-Sea, and then on to Monmouth School, from where he won a foundation scholarship and leaving exhibition to Cardiff University. He then went to St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School and after qualifying MRCS LRCP in 1929 went on to resident house appointments at St Bartholomew's and qualified MB BS London in 1932, when he had finished these posts.

Between 1932 and 1937 he was first assistant to the surgical unit at St Bartholomew's and in 1937 he won the Dorothy Temple Cross Travelling Fellowship, which took him to Vienna and Ann Arbor, Michigan. During his surgical training he was particularly influenced by Harold Wilson and Geoffrey Keynes at St Bartholomew's and John Alexander at Ann Arbor Hospital, Michigan. After the period spent abroad he was appointed surgeon to the London Chest Hospital in 1938, a post that he held until 1970, and also in 1938 he was appointed first assistant to the department of thoracic surgery at the London Hospital, where he was particularly influenced by Tudor Edwards. In 1946 he was appointed full surgeon to the department of thoracic surgery at the London Hospital.

During the war and in the immediate post-war period he was surgeon to the EMS sector hospital at Harefield throracic surgical unit, where he worked with Holmes Sellors, d'Abreu and others. He also held various other consulting thoracic surgical appointments to the North East Regional Hospital Board, London County Council, Preston Hall, Maidstone, West London Hospital and the King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor. His connections with the Royal College of Surgeons included routine postgraduate lectures by invitation and membership of the College's Committee on Higher Surgical Training. He was chairman of the Advisory Committee for Thoracic Surgery between 1966 and 1970 and President of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland between 1966 and 1967. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the London Hospital between 1948 and 1957 and of the Hospitals for Diseases of the Chest between 1948 and 1960.

As a surgeon VCT had the reputation of being a hard taskmaster and at times overbearing to his junior staff, but made significant contributions to surgery for carcinoma of the oesophagus and tumours of the lung, with important publications in both subjects. His qualities as a surgical opinion were probably best seen in the pre-chemotherapy days in the management of pulmonary tuberculosis and he performed many thoracoplasties without mortality. He invented a knife for closed mitral valvotomy.

In 1948 he became, with the fourteen other thoracic surgeons in Britain, a member of Brown's Club, so called because it met annually at Brown's Hotel in London, and this club was the forerunner of a series of similar clubs set up by peer groups in the specialty in the years that followed. The members of Brown's Club therefore set the pattern for a most important development in the field of cardiothoracic surgery in post-war Britain, with international connections.

In 1942 he married Jean Frances Ardea Hilary and they had a son, Nicholas, and a daughter, Jean. In his youth, VCT played rugby football and enjoyed skiing and golf, and in later years fishing, shooting and gardening.

He died on 27 November 1995 survived by his son and daughter, his wife having pre-deceased him.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1996 312 842].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England