Thomas Annandale succeeded Lord Lister as Professor of Surgery in Edinburgh. He was a surgical pioneer in the surgery of groin hernia and in the surgery of the knee.
Born the son of a Newcastle surgeon he was one of the last to be apprenticed as a surgeon before beginning medical studies. After apprenticeship to his father he graduated from Edinburgh University obtaining a gold medal for his thesis on the injuries and diseases of the hip joint. This early success caught the eye of Professor James Syme who appointed him House Surgeon in 1860 and private assistant the following year. Like so many of his era he demonstrated anatomy in Goodsir’s department and at the same time began to lecture on systematic surgery in the extra-mural school of medicine. In 1877 he was appointed to the daunting challenge of the Regius Chair of Clinical Surgery in Edinburgh in succession to Lord Lister.
By all accounts he was a natural surgeon, decisive, courageous and dextrous. On one famous occasion at a surgical congress in Philadelphia, as was the custom of the day, the visiting elite were presented with difficult cases and invited to operate. Sir William McCormack and Friedrich Esmarch declined the invitation to operate on a retropharyngeal tumour – Annandale accepted and successfully performed the procedure.
He was a pioneer in developing the surgery of the knee joint undoubtedly helped by the use of Listerian antisepsis. His operation to remove loose bodies from the knee joint was published by his assistant J. M. Cotterill (QV) in 1869. This was followed by the operation to remove torn medial semi-lunar cartilage from the knee joint. He was the first to perform this successfully, with a successful clinical outcome and the operation was to become a standard surgical procedure.
He was also a pioneer of the preperitoneal approach to groin hernias. Lloyd Nyhus, in his history of the development of hernia repair, credits Annandale with the introduction of the preperitoneal approach in a paper published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal in 1876.
His legacies in Edinburgh included the Annandale gold medal for the best undergraduate in clinical surgery still awarded each year by the University of Edinburgh.
Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows. Vol. Page 28.
Edinburgh Medical Journal 1908; 2031
Lancet 1908: 1; 133
Lancet 1908: 1; 70
British Medical Journal 1908: 1; 60
Scottish Medical and Surgical Journal 1908: 22; 68