Vale: Professor David Brynmor Thomas

Friday 29 May 2020


The School of Medicine community was saddened to learn of the recent death of former Bute Professor of Anatomy and Experimental Pathology and Chair of Anatomy, Professor David Brynmor Thomas.

Professor David Crossman issued the following statement:

“I was sad to learn of David’s death last weekend. He was a true friend to the School of Medicine, conducting his own research in medical sciences and teaching medical students through his time at the University. He was a kind man who was still interested in the School even in his last years and talked keenly to me about developments in the School. He remained passionate about the field of bone marrow transplantation, an area of medical science in which he had made a significant early impact. We have lost a loyal servant of the School and a link with the past.”

Obituary, Professor David Brynmor Thomas:

By Prof Andrew Riches


David Brynmor Thomas (DBT) was born in 1930 and passed away peacefully on Saturday May 23rd 2020 in his flat. David was Bute Professor of Anatomy and Experimental Pathology and Chair of Anatomy at the University of St. Andrews in 1973 -1996. He served as Master of United College 1980-84.

DBT started training in medicine at University College London in 1949 awarded a BSc in Anatomy (intercalated) in 1952 with special honours and completed his clinical training at University College Hospital. While at UC, he was Editor of the Hospital Magazine in 1953, received special recognition in 1955 for research conducted on pregnancies complicated by diabetes mellitus. He became a Demonstrator in Anatomy at the University of Bristol (1959–1961) followed by appointments as Lecturer in Pathology at the Welsh National School of Medicine (1961–1963) and Nuffield Lecturer in Pathology at the University of Oxford (1963–1965). His interest in haematology was sparked with his time in Bristol with Professor Yoffey, where he published a seminal paper in Nature on haematopoesis in human foetal liver.

His international reputation was recognised by awarding honorary membership of the Anatomische Gesellschaft, the Italian Society of Anatomy and the American Association of Anatomists. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Biology, Fellow of the British Association of Clinical Anatomists, Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, FRC of Physicians of Edinburgh, FRC of Physicians of London, Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He also was President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

David returned to Anatomy when he was appointed Senior Lecturer in charge of the Sub‐department of Histology and Cellular Biology in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Birmingham (1965–1973). He established an experimental haematology group and spent time in Oak Ridge, USA with Dr. C. Congdon. It was at this time that there was great concern about the effects of radiation. The importance of stem cells and bone marrow transplantation was emerging. He often mentioned at the time that he had read all the papers that had ever been published on bone marrow transplantation. He attended many conferences and was in contact with leading experts in the field of Experimental Haematology in Australia, USA, Netherlands, France and Harwell and Manchester in the UK. He could be relied upon to question and politely argue with experts like Van Bekkum, Lajtha, Frindel and McCulloch, who were leaders in the field at the time.

He was a charismatic lecturer with his soft Welsh tones, and meticulously prepared his scientific presentations. At the end of his lectures, he would always spend time with students or other researchers to discuss at length any questions or misunderstandings.

David was appointed Bute Professor of Anatomy and Experimental Pathology and Chair of Anatomy at the University of St. Andrews in 1973. He served in these positions until 1996, at which time he became an Emeritus Professor. He served as Master of United College 1980-84 and as Chancellor’s Assessor on the University Court. One of his early appointments was Hugh MacDougall as Anatomy Demonstrator. Hugh returned in later years as Dean and Head of School to establish the School of Medicine and the new building. David was instrumental in building up the research base of the Department.

David never lost his Welsh roots and loved walking and talking about the Brecon Beacons. David always had time for people. David will be missed by many colleagues both in St. Andrews and in the many international links he made over the years.

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