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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 November 3; 335(7626): 943.
PMCID: PMC2048897

James Picton Douglas Thomas

Dr James Picton Thomas—Picton to his friends—died peacefully on 13 August at the age of 82 years after a long and distinguished career as a consultant physician in Cardiff. Picton was a proud Welshman, born in Pembrey, Carmarthenshire. He won a scholarship to Ellesmere College and Dean Close School in Shropshire and went on to read medicine at Cambridge and St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, qualifying in 1947. In 1948 he became house surgeon to Sir Geoffrey Keynes at St Bartholomew's Hospital, followed by two years' national service with the Royal Air Force.

In 1950 he was house physician to Dr Danino at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, thereafter returning to St Bartholomew's Hospital as demonstrator in physiology, registrar to the distinguished Sir Ronald Bodley Scott (during which time he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians), and then lecturer in medicine, during which he obtained his MD degree based on his work in respiratory physiology.

In 1958 he became the Thomson scholar of the Royal College of Physicians, which enabled him to spend two formative and profitable years in the United States undertaking research into adrenal steroid hormones under the guidance of the celebrated Dr Fred Barrter at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. He then returned to London as a research fellow to Sir John McMichael before moving back to Wales as lecturer and then senior lecturer in medicine with Professor Sir Harold Scarborough at Cardiff Royal Infirmary and the Welsh National School of Medicine. In 1977 he moved laterally to a full time NHS consultant post and he served as senior physician at the University Hospital of Wales until his retirement in 1989.

His contribution to medicine in Wales was outstanding. Not only was he a wise and astute clinician and leader but he also established the academic and clinical specialty of endocrinology in Wales, particularly following his earlier studies into the metabolism and measurement of steroid hormones. In addition, he was a highly acclaimed clinical teacher of both undergraduate medical students and postgraduate junior doctors, gaining particular fame for his widely sought after MRCP tutorial sessions.

Throughout all this, Picton displayed his delightful, impish sense of humour and his fundamental honesty—he abhorred pretension and hypocrisy in all its forms. He loved and cared for his extended family and friends. He derived particular pleasure from Wales beating England at Rugby (or anything), from drinking good beer, from hitting a sweet golf shot, from gardening, and from Welsh choral music (for many years he was an active member of the celebrated local Cantorion Creigiau). He was a gifted, charismatic man who guided many people well, and he will be sorely missed.

Picton Thomas is survived by his wife, Mollie, and her daughter; and his first wife, Jenny, and their three children.


Former senior physician University Hospital of Wales (b 1924; q Cambridge/St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, 1947; MD), d 13 August 2007.

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