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Tomlinson, Dr. J.D.W.
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John Derek Williams Tomlinson (1926-2010), physician and professor, was born in Alfreton, Derbyshire, England on 26 March 1926, the son of Charles Sterland Tomlinson and Mabel Annie Tomlinson (nee Williams). In 1952, on 12 July, Dr. Tomlinson married Margaret Jane Tomlinson (nee Barker) of Todmorden, Yorkshire, England, at North Lopham, Norfolk, England, and they have five children: Derek James, Charles Richard Neil, Susan Jane, Hilary Jill and Amanda Kate. Dr. Tomlinson died 30 April 2010.
Dr. Tomlinson received his medical education at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, England (B.A., 1946, M.A., M.B.B. Chir). Then he carried out clinical training at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School. After graduating from Medical School, Dr. Tomlinson taught anatomy for several years at the London Hospital Medical College. In the early part of 1970, Dr. Kenneth Bryson Roberts approached Dr. Tomlinson concerning a position teaching anatomy in Memorial University. Dr. Roberts had also taught in the London Hospital Medical College and had recently left to become Memorial University’s first Associate Dean of Medicine. Dr. Tomlinson accepted the offer and arranged to come to Newfoundland in August 1970.
Dr. Tomlinson taught the first anatomy course at Memorial University, starting on September 1st and ending on October 9th of 1970. There were 24 students enrolled. The course was relatively experimental due to the fact that it was the first of its kind at Memorial, and Dr. Tomlinson was designing the course as he went. However, despite the newness of the course and many problems the medical facility had with facilities and in obtaining materials for demonstration and research purposes, Dr. Tomlinson formed a bond with those students that he cherished all his life. After the course ended, and thinking his adventures in St. John’s had come to a close, he returned to England but once again he was invited the following year to teach the course again. In the winter of 1972,, Memorial’s President, Lord Stephen Taylor, invited him back to teach anatomy full time. In July of that year, he came back again, followed by his wife and children, who stayed in England until early August to pack up their farmhouse and find homes for their many dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets.
The second course (starting, again, on September 1st and ending on October 9th) had, instead of 24 students, 48 registered students. With the increase of student enrollment, there was insufficient time to lecture and perform dissection demonstrations on cadavers, which Dr. Tomlinson routinely and carefully prepared the night before each class. Therefore, he invited an associate from London Hospital Medical College, Peter Kelly, to help with the dissections and some of the lecturing.
Throughout his career Dr. Tomlinson participated on numerous committees: curriculum committees and course committees, the library advisory committee (as chairman), the first and second year committees, the anatomy committee, the executive committee, the Senate, among others. From the vantage point of an administrator as well as physician, he noticed that the medical school was short-staffed, though everyone was very collegial. After discovering the school had no embryologist or endocrinologist, and despite his unfamiliarity with the subjects, Dr. Tomlinson researched, studied and taught the much-needed embryology and endocrine courses. He also taught neuroanatomy.
Dr. Tomlinson was key in establishing human anatomy as a subject of study in Newfoundland: he helped to design and set up the required laboratory facilities, develop curriculum, recruit and train faculty and technical personnel as well as help to devise legal foundations for anatomical procedures in the province. In 1971, the provincial government passed “An act respecting human tissue and the disposition of human bodies.” In 1974, Dr. Tomlinson taught the first class (a neuroanatomy course) in the new Health Sciences Centre Medical School.
As part of the curriculum, Dr. Tomlinson began making instructional dissection videotapes in the late 1970s to help with the teaching of core anatomy courses. Such tapes as Anatomy of the back of the lower limbs and sole of foot, 1976 and Anatomy of the heart, 1976 can still be found in the library today, along with an anthology of anatomical illustrations, The Fabric of the Body, which he co-authored with Dr. Kenneth Roberts.
Dr. Tomlinson received many awards and distinctions throughout his career, including the Killick Award in 1970 and had the honour of becoming the first recipient of the Silver Orator Award in 1987. In 1988, the university named him Professor of Surgical Anatomy and in 1991 the medical school’s first year class named him Teacher of the Year. After a very distinguished career, he retired from the medical school in 1991 and in October of 1992 was named professor emeritus, a distinction bestowed on faculty in recognition of outstanding scholarly work and contributions to the university community.