Lives of the fellows

Michael Lea Thomas

b.6 February 1927 d.9 May 1992
MA MB BChir Cantab(1952) MRCP(1958) DMRD(1959) FFR(1962) FRCP(1974) FRCR(1975) PhD Cantab(1982)

Michael Lea Thomas was the son of a mining surveyor. He was born in Aberdare, Glamorgan, and educated at Colston’s School, Bristol. Towards the end of the second world war he served briefly in the Royal Navy and subsequently went up to Cambridge University as an undergraduate to study medicine, completing his medical degree at St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

He entered radiology with several years of clinical medicine behind him, ushering in the new era of radiologists who backed up their radiological opinions with good common clinical sense. Indeed, Michael prided himself on being a physician who had specialized in radiology.

Returning to St Thomas* in 1957, as a junior member in the radiology department, he quickly developed a reputation for astuteness in diagnostic ability and manual dexterity in procedures. His training included one year at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases and an overseas trip to Sweden before he took up a consultant post in diagnostic radiology at St Thomas* Hospital in 1964. Although during his training he had developed a leaning towards neuroradiology, he quickly became interested in peripheral vascular radiology and venography. Working closely with the surgical unit at St Thomas* he was instrumental in setting up a strong working relationship with the unit which he maintained until his death.

Michael was extremely interested in research, contributing over 250 papers to the literature on various aspects of vascular radiology. He was undoubtedly the leading pioneer in the radiology of venous diseases in this country. His monograph Phlebography of the lower limb, Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 1982, became the standard text on the radiology of venous diseases.
He was also co-author of Diseases of the veins …, with Norman L Browse and Kevin G Burnard.

He maintained an enormous slide and radiographic collection, with many unusual and exotic examples of rare diseases, which he would delight in showing to junior members of the department. While he was an accomplished lecturer, it was perhaps in these more informal gatherings that he will be best remembered as they were illumined by his perceptive and incisive wit.

Michael furnished an elegant flat in Brighton and it was his earnest wish to retire there. His great hobby was travelling and he visited a wide variety of countries. Sadly, with the onset of his terminal illness his activities were severely curtailed. He bore the diagnosis of motor neurone disease with extreme stoicism. Having made the diagnosis himself, he rationally set about putting his affairs in order. He retired from St Thomas’ but continued to write until just a few days before his death.

In these last few months he was supported by his family and by many of the radiological and radiographic staff at St Thomas’; the latter was surely a testament to the high esteem in which he was held by all in the department. With his death, the radiological world lost a significant intellect and his family and friends lost a charming and sincere friend.

A T Irvine

(Volume IX, page 311)

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