Posted by: Jim Bell | March 5, 2011

James Learmonth, Gatehouse of Fleet

Sir James Rögnvald Learmonth KCVO CBE FRSE FRCSE (1895 – 1967) was a Scottish surgeon who made pioneering advances in nerve surgery.

James Rögnvald Learmonth was born on 23 March 1895 in Gatehouse of Fleet, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. He first studied at Girthon School where his father, William Learmonth, was headmaster, later moving to Kilmarnock Academy. From there, he went to the University of Glasgow to study medicine, starting in the autumn of 1913. He completed his first year, but further study was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. He served in France on the Western Front as a commissioned officer with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of Captain.

Medical career

After the war, Learmonth returned to the University of Glasgow and added to the honours he had received in his first year, graduating in 1921. He was considered the “outstanding medical student of his year”, being awarded the university’s Brunton Medal. He then continued his medical training at Glasgow’s Western Infirmary during 1921 and 1922. This was followed by a period of research that led to a Rockefeller Scholarship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA, for the year 1924–5.

Following his research work in the USA, he returned to Scotland and resumed his work at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow. He also continued to study and in 1927 he obtained his Masters in Surgery (Ch.M.) and in 1928 he become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. His research work led to him being invited back to the Mayo Clinic for a second time, and he worked there for the next four years.

In 1932, Learmonth chose to give up his practice in the USA and returned to Scotland to take up the position of Regius Professor of Surgery at the University of Aberdeen, a position he would hold for the next six years until 1938. He then held professorships in surgery at the University of Edinburgh from 1939 until his retirement in 1956. The first was the Chair of Surgery (1939), which he then held jointly with the Regius Chair of Clinical Surgery (1946). One of his students at Edinburgh during this period was Sheila Sherlock, who became a pioneering hepatologist.

In 1949, Learmonth performed a lumbar sympathectomy on King George VI to treat the king’s vascular disease (thromboangiitis obliterans). For this service, Learmonth was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO), being “knighted in the king’s bedroom”. He was also appointed as a surgeon to the King in Scotland, and following his death as a surgeon to the new Queen in Scotland from 1952 to 1960.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : More on the Wikipedia Listing

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