Sir Thomas Symington Scotland Uganda

Biography of Sir Thomas Symington

Sir Thomas Symington (1915-2007) held the St Mungo Notman Chair of Pathology at the University and was Head of the Department of Pathology at Glasgow Royal Infirmary from 1954 to 1970.

Symington was brought up in the Ayrshire village of Muirkirk and attended Cumnock Academy. His father, who was a miner, died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. He studied at the University graduating with a BSc in Biochemistry in 1936 and MB, ChB in 1941.

After working for one year in general practice, Symington began his career in pathology at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He was conscripted to the Army and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps between 1947 and 1949, taking charge of the pathology department at a Kuala Lumpur hospital during the communist uprising. When he returned to Glasgow, he continued his research in adrenal gland pathology and was awarded an MD with honours in 1951.

Symington set up a highly regarded BSc course in Pathology at the University. In 1962 he was part of a working group sent to East Africa to look at the medical needs of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. He was instrumental in the establishment of medical schools in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and encouraged secondments of staff from Glasgow to these medical schools and the further training of young African graduates in Glasgow.

In 1970, Symington left Glasgow to take up the position of Director of the Chester Beatty Cancer Research Institute in London. He was awarded a knighthood in 1978. In 2003 he published his memoirs, A Chance to Remember - My Life in Medicine.


Sir Thomas Symington

Born 1 April 1915, Muirkirk, Scotland.
Died 30 April 2007.
GU Degrees: BSc, 1936; MB ChB, 1941; MD, 1950;
University Link: Alumnus, Professor
Occupation categories: pathologists
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Record last updated: 5th Mar 2013

Country Associations

Scotland Scotland
Place of Birth

Uganda Uganda, No Region

University Connections

University Roles

  • Alumnus
  • Professor

Academic Posts