Lives of the fellows

Selwyn Edward Tanner

b.3 October 1898 d.22 November 1988
MRCS LRCP(1923) MB BS Lond(1923) MD(1925) MRCP(1926) FRCP(1944)

Selwyn Tanner was consultant physician to Leicester Royal Infirmary, and later also to the Leicester General Infirmary and small hospitals at Hinckley and Market Harborough. He was the son of a mine manager and was born at Crofty in South Glamorgan.

Selwyn was sent to Gowerton Intermediate School from where he won a county scholarship to Aberystwyth University to read physics. After a year he changed to medicine, taking his second MB at Cardiff. His clinical training was at University College Hospital, London, where he qualified. After resident posts, including one with Wilfred Trotter at University College Hospital, he went to Leicester in 1926 and entered a partnership with N I Spriggs and T W Allen. In 1930 he became honorary physician at Leicester Royal Infirmary; he abandoned general practice in 1936 and devoted himself entirely to consultancy. With the advent of the National Health Service in 1948 he became absorbed into the new system until he retired in 1963.

During house posts at University College he became interested in endocrinology, an interest he kept up throughout his career. He had many original ideas, but at Leicester his laboratory work was torpedoed by a hostile laboratory service. Many of his theories, particularly on Addison’s disease, were ahead of his time. His main work, however, was as a general physician. He was the leading physician in Leicester of his day. From 1954-55 he was president of the Leicester Medical Society.

Selwyn Tanner was straight-laced and honourable in all his dealings, and a rather private man. He was greatly respected both as a person and for his academic knowledge. He had some interest in Christian societies, probably at the prompting of his wife, because he seemed to be something of a doubter. He believed firmly in ethical medical behaviour and was critical of those whose ethics he thought to be less strict. On a point of principle, he would not mix with osteopaths or other fringe practitioners. At times he could be dogmatic, but he was very supportive of all those who worked for him.

In retirement he abandoned medicine and devoted himself to his garden, and to reading. He had married Gwen Burgess and they had two daughters; after he retired he and his wife moved house to be nearer their children.

FD Rosenthal

[Brit.med.J., 1989,298,379-80]

(Volume VIII, page 496)

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