Lives of the fellows

Thomas (Sir) Oliver

b.2 March 1853 d.15 May 1942
MB CM Glasg(1874) MD Hon LLD Glasg MA Hon DCL Durh Hon DSc Sheff Danzig FRS Edin FRCP(1890) DL JP

Born at St. Quivox in Ayrshire, the second son of James Oliver, Thomas Oliver went to Ayr Academy for his schooling and Glasgow University for his medical training. Having graduated as M.B,C.M. in 1874, he procured a junior post at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and visited Paris for postgraduate study. He passed the years 1875-79 in practice at Preston. Then, moving to Newcastle, he became lecturer on physiology at the College of Medicine. He quickly established himself as a consultant, and was appointed to the staff of the Royal Victoria Infirmary, where he eventually attained the position of consulting physician. His academic career was distinguished. In 1911 he exchanged his lectureship, which had been raised to the status of a chair in 1889, for the professorship of medicine, which he held till 1927. He was president of the College of Medicine from 1926 to 1934 and vice-chancellor of Durham University from 1928 to 1930. He delivered the Goulstonian Lectures at the Royal College of Physicians in 1891.

Oliver, however, was known best to his profession, both at home and abroad, as an authority on industrial medicine. He was a member of the 1892 White Lead Commission — and as such largely responsible for the banning of female labour in certain processes of its manufacture — and a Home Office expert on dangerous trades, and he took part in many enquiries, public and private, into industrial poisoning. In 1902 he edited a valuable survey entitled Dangerous Trades and six years later published a work on Diseases of Occupation. His services to public health were recognised by the conferment of a knighthood in 1908 and by several foreign distinctions. During the 1914-1918 War he helped to raise the Tyneside Scottish Brigade, of which he became honorary colonel. An imposing figure at public functions, Oliver was also a most conscientious teacher and physician, noted for setting the example of "following up" cases, and above all for linking physiological principles with clinical medicine. He married, firstly, in 1881, Edith, daughter of William Jenkins of Consett Hall, Durham, and, secondly, in 1893 Emma, daughter of John Woods of Benton Hall, Newcastle, and had two sons and three daughters.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1942; B.M.J., 1942]

(Volume IV, page 343)

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