- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Thomas John Fairbank

Born  1912
Died  1998

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English orthopaedic surgeon, born 1912; died April 4, 1998.

Biography of Thomas John Fairbank

Thomas John Fairbank was the son of the legendary orthopaedic surgeon Harold Arthur Thomas Fairbank (1876-1961). He had a distinguished undergraduate career at Cambridge and St Thomas’ Hospital, qualifying in 1937. He then occupied junior posts at St Thomas’ including a period in the Orthopaedic Department with George Perkins, Rowley Bristow and others, before joining the army in 1939.

Fairbank spent the whole of the second world war in the Royal Army Medical Corps, starting in the Maginot Line, escaping France in the last boat from St Malo. This was followed by a long posting in Gibraltar, where he received a correspondence course in orthopaedics from his father. He returned to France via the Normandy landings in 1944 in charge of a field surgical unit, with which he remained for the rest of the war. In 1944­-1945 he took a field hospital from Normandy to the Baltic.

After leaving the army in 1945 he undertook further training in orthopaedics at Manchester, Oxford and Alton, before being appointed consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Cambridge in 1948. He remained there for 30 years during which time a clinical medical school was established. With it came a great expansion in medical services, including orthopaedics. Fairbank was a leading figure in this.

He was a member of the first group of Travelling Fellows, later the ABC Fellows, who went to the United States and Canada in 1948. He described it as “the experience of a lifetime.” He was president of the British Orthopaedic Association 1974-1975.

Fairbank’s wife, Jinnie, had trained as a nurse at St Thomas’. They got four children.
He was an outdoors man, enjoying rough shooting, fishing, and skiing – as well as music making with his children and their friends.

In retirement he was plaintiff's expert witness in repetitive strain injury cases.

  • Jeremy Fairbank, in BMJ, 1998, 316 (7148): 1909.
  • JIPJ, in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. British volume, September 1998, 80-B: 931.

We thank Patrick Jucker-Kupper, Switzerland, for information submitted.


  • T. J. Fairbank:
    Knee joint changes after meniscectomy.
    Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, London, 1948, 30B: 664-670.
  • Cedric Oswald Carter and T. J. Fairbank:
    The genetics of locomotor disorders.
    London, Oxford University Press, 1974. 170 pages.
  • R. T. Fairbank and R. Wynne Davies:
    Atlas of General Affections of the Skin.
    New York, Churchill Livingstone, 1976. 262 pages.
    Second edition of his father's work.

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