Obituary: Robert Thomson

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Robert Norman Thomson, administrator: born 14 November 1935; Assistant Executive Director, Royal Society of Medicine 1973-77, Deputy Executive Director 1977-82, Executive Director 1982-93; Director, Royal Society of Medicine Foundation Inc, New York, 1984-94, Vice-President 1988-94; died London 2 March 1994.

ROBERT THOMSON spent the whole of his working life in the service of the Royal Society of Medicine until his final illness brought about his resignation last year. He had been its executive director for nine important years and, in recognition and gratitude for all that he did for the society, he was awarded its Honorary Fellowship, a rare distinction for someone outside the fields of medicine and science. He was also presented with his portrait, which now hangs in the society's House. The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries honoured him with the Freedom of that institution.

Thomson was educated at Wells Cathedral School, and there he found a source of infinite delight in church music which became a lifetime passion. At Clare College, Cambridge, he read English, and graduated in 1957. At this time choral music was so much a part of his life that he proposed singing professionally and was offered positions in the choirs of two cathedrals. Later he was to sing with three different choirs in London.

However, his plans for a musical career were interrupted by an offer, in 1962, of the post of Administrative Assistant to the then Secretary of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dick Hewitt, and to the great benefit to the society he accepted. From this time on he held various appointments in its administration until he became its executive director in 1982. During his long period in office many important changes took place, in particular the refurbishment of the society's huge library as well as its lecture theatres and offices, and the building of an extension to house the dining and other domestic facilities, which was opened by the Queen in 1986.

As the society's ambassador, Thomson travelled widely, particularly in the United States. There the Royal Society of Medicine Foundation, of which he became Vice-

President, was his special concern from the time of its inception in 1967. The foundation has an important role in promoting Anglo- American relations in medicine and administers a large number of visiting professorships besides organising international and other medical meetings. He was closely concerned with many of these activities. During his frequent journeys on behalf of the Royal Society of Medicine he was able to establish fraternal relationships with many specialist societies in the United States and elsewhere, and also with those few institutions abroad which are of a similar nature. These efforts also greatly increased the membership outside Britain.

Bob Thomson was a very courteous, kind and even somewhat self- effacing man, who was always thoughtful of anything which might benefit the society or its staff, yet he showed considerable determination and tact in achieving results. His efficiency in this respect owed much to his sense of humour and quiet powers of persuasion. Although responsible to the Council, Thomson frequently initiated ideas, most of which were adopted with or without modification, and often without the knowledge or remembrance of their source.

He was a delightful and amusing host, who entertained one with conversation as pleasant as the food and wine one was enjoying, and which he also appreciated with discernment and a rather old-fashioned taste. Next to music he enjoyed reading and, though he remained a bachelor, he was most happy in the company of others. His loyalty and ceaseless efforts on behalf of the Royal Society of Medicine will long be remembered with gratitude by the Council, by the Fellows and by a succession of presidents.

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