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Professor Emeritus David Brynmor Thomas: 1931 to 2020

Professor David Brynmor Thomas, a past-President of the International Federation of  Associations of Anatomists (IFAA), has died at the age of 89. The epitome of an academic, David made outstanding contributions to teaching, research and academic life in general.

David left his beloved Wales to read medicine in London, first graduating from University College London in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree with special Honours in Anatomy. He was thus set on a pathway that he would follow in later years. In 1956, David graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree. His research on haemopoietic and lymphoid tissues led to a Doctor of Science degree in 1976 from the University of Birmingham.

Between 1956 and 1959, David worked in the clinical domain, but returned to academia as a lecturer in Pathology from 1961 -1965.  However the call of anatomy was strong and in 1965 he was appointed as Lecturer in Histology and Cellular Biology at the Department of Anatomy, University of Birmingham. Less than 10 years later, in 1973, David was appointed the Bute Professor of Anatomy and Experimental Pathology and Chair of Anatomy at the University of St. Andrews. Following his retirement in 1996, he became Emeritus Professor and Honorary Professor of the University.

David Brynmor Thomas was a long-time member of the Anatomical Society, becoming in 1991 its President. In addition, he was a Fellow of the Institute of Biology, a Fellow of the British Association of Clinical Anatomists, a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, FRC of Physicians of London, FRC of Physicians of Edinburgh, Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, FRS of Edinburgh and FRS of Arts. He was also one of the founders of the European Federation of Experimental Morphology (EFEM).

David’s academic career was peppered with honours and awards. Special mention should be made of recognition for his research on pregnancies associated with diabetes mellitus while he was still a student. Honorary Membership was bestowed on him by the Anatomische Gesellschaft, the Italian Society of Anatomy and the American Association for Anatomists.

David was a devoted developer of young minds, not only of his own postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows but also of young academics from around the world. He became a life-long friend and mentor to many. David extended the hand of friendship to scientists who were from countries that were seen to be political pariahs, for he held that politics had no place in science.

Professor Brynmor Thomas was President of the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists (IFAA) between 2000 and 2009, serving the Federation with distinction. As a member of the IFAA’s anatomical terminology committee for many years, David was instrumental in setting up the Federative International Programme for Anatomical Terminology (FIPAT). In 2003, the Newsletter of the IFAA, Plexus, was initiated under David’s Presidency. This broadened communication between member Associations and allowed comment and discussion on anatomical matters of interest from around the world. David’s “Revitalization” of the IFAA also introduced many of the Programmes and Committees which are in existence in the IFAA today. During periods of academic turbulence for the anatomical sciences, David brought to the fore his great skills in diplomacy for the benefit of the discipline.

Although physically frail, David attended the IFAA Congress in London in July 2019, where many were delighted to renew his acquaintance and friendship. At the time of his death, together with some colleagues, he was working on the history of the IFAA. 

His extensive knowledge and wisdom, and his wonderful friendship to many of us, will be sorely missed.

The IFAA extends its sincere condolences to Professor Brynmor Thomas’ son David and to his family.

Beverley Kramer (President IFAA) and Bernard Moxham (Immediate Past-President IFAA)


IFAA Statement on COVID-19 and body Donors

‘Human dissection has long been the ‘gold standard’ for teaching and research in the anatomical sciences. Anatomists rely on the altruism of individuals to donate their bodies so that health sciences professionals in training can continue to be privileged by experiencing the structural details of the human body. We thus continue to be extremely grateful to those individuals who donate their bodies.  For the process of body donation to be accepted by the donors and the public, it is imperative that high ethical standards prevail.  Under these conditions, numerous body donor programmes have been achieved around the world.  The best practice guidelines of the IFAA (www.ifaa.net) present recommendations for the ethical sourcing and use of human bodies.

During outbreaks of infectious diseases, the sourcing of bodies and continuance of donor programmes comes under stress. Numerous guidelines have been produced by organisations and governments during the present novel coronavirus pandemic, which will be of great use to anatomists who facilitate donor programmes. The IFAA has summarised current information on important aspects of the handling of bodies during the coronavirus pandemic in order to provide information to its constituent members. It stresses the importance of scientific evidence, which should be the guiding principle wherever available.

The following refers to the handling of the dead body in the context of anatomy.’ (…)

Please find the IFAA best practice guidelines for body donation programmes during the novel Coronavirus pandemic document here 

Contributors to the Guidelines: Beverley Kramer, Brendon Billings, Bernard Moxham and Andreas Winkelmann

The Proceedings of the 19th IFAA Congress, 9th-11th August 2019, London, UK
have been published

Abstracts of the presentations made at the 19th IFAA Congress have now been published in the Journal of Anatomy.  They are available Open Access online (Volume 236, supplement1) and can be accessed via Wiley Online Library (WOL) or directly via:


Professor D. Ceri Davies 
President of the 19th IFAA Congress.

Human health and disease have become more complex over the last millennium.  Many of the crucial discoveries and innovations in relation to health have, as their basis, the foundations of anatomy, physiology and biochemistry.  The anatomical sciences, which include cell biology, histology, morphology (including clinical anatomy), neurosciences, developmental biology, oral biology, veterinary sciences, physical anthropology and other allied disciplines, are now more relevant than ever before, not only as the foundation for knowledge of the clinical sciences, but also for production of high-quality biomedical research.

The International Federation of Associations of Anatomists (IFAA), which was established in 1903, is the professional domicile of Associations of Anatomy from around the globe (please also read our About-page for additional information and narrated slides).  It seeks to stimulate friendship and cooperation among members of associations of anatomists and encourages scientific, technological, educational and administrative exchanges among anatomists worldwide.  The IFAA provides a platform for strong scientific debate, advancement of teaching and biomedical research in the anatomical disciplines and a venue, through its programmes and committees, for discussions on the development of core syllabuses, educational and biomedical research, ethics, equality and diversity in the anatomical sciences and other relevant issues. The Federation also coordinates and supports the preparation, revision and publication of documents on the terminology of the anatomical sciences and promotes international scientific congresses and other meetings of anatomical and morphological sciences.

The vision of the IFAA is to generate vibrant scientific exchange and development between its member Associations in all areas of the anatomical sciences.

As our mission, we seek to encourage the growth of teaching and research in all fields of anatomy, maintain high standards and ethical values in the use of human bodies for teaching and research, and develop policies in support of the discipline of anatomy.