Lives of the fellows

John Francis Walkingame Tatham

b.24 March 1844 d.8 November 1924
MD Brux(1875) DPH(1876) BA Dubl(1884) MB(1884) MA MD LFPS Glasg LRCP Edin DPH Cantab FRCP(1898) Hon FRCPI

John Tatham, who came of an old Cumberland family, was brought up in Exeter. He studied medicine at Sheffield, and took the Glasgow and Edinburgh diplomas in 1867. In 1870 he became house surgeon to the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary and three years later medical officer of health for Salford. Here he gave evidence of statistical leanings, by publishing statistical tables in his annual reports, and by arranging for the exchange of returns of infectious diseases with other medical officers of health, thus laying the basis of the compulsory weekly returns to the Local Government Board finally established in 1910. In 1888 he obtained the same post at Manchester, having acquired the Brussels M.D. degree (1875), the Cambridge D.P.H. (1876), and the Dublin B.A. and M.B. degrees (1884), during his stay at Salford. In 1890 he became lecturer on public health at Owens College, and in 1892 he published the first Manchester Life Tables, which he later supplemented with tables covering the decade 1891-1900. In 1893 he was selected for the post of superintendent of statistics in the General Register Office, which he held until he reached the retiring age in 1909. Tatham’s best work was embodied in two letters to the registrar-general, summarising the vital statistics of the decades 1881-90 and 1891-1900, which proved worthy successors to the supplementary reports of Farr and William Ogle. He examined on public health for the Universities of Cambridge and Wales, and contributed to Allbutt and Rolleston’s System of Medicine. In retirement Tatham, a man of cautious and clear judgement and fine presence, and a good speaker, lived first at Lynton and then at Oxted. In 1917 he took Holy Orders and became curate of Tandridge, Surrey. He died at Oxted.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1924; B.M.J., 1924; Presidential Address to R.C.P., 1925, 25]

(Volume IV, page 406)

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