THOMAS, EVAN CAMBRIA (1867 - 1930), doctor and public health pioneer

Name: Evan Cambria Thomas
Date of birth: 1867
Date of death: 1930
Spouse: Margaret Eleanor Thomas (née Davies)
Child: Evan Kenneth Roy Thomas
Parent: Evan Thomas
Parent: Emma Thomas (née Jones)
Gender: Male
Occupation: doctor and public health pioneer
Area of activity: Medicine
Author: Huw Thomas Davies

Evan Cambria Thomas was born at Tŷ Coch, Llanarth, Cardiganshire, on 28 March 1867, the last of six children of Captain Evan Thomas (1825-1900), a seaman in the merchant service, and his wife Emma Jones (1824-1871), innkeeper of the Red Lion, Llanarth. He attended Llanarth School from 1872 under the tuition of John Edward Rees (1854-1912), a Certified School Master. In 1883 he was accepted to study medicine at the Medical School of Edinburgh University, graduating in 1888.

He was appointed Medical Officer of Health for the Llanybydder district by the Rural Sanitary Authority in August 1889, but found the terms and conditions unacceptable and resigned the following month. He then worked as a medical practitioner in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and returned to take up the post of Medical Officer of Health in Llanybydder in 1892. He married Margaret Eleanor Davies (1870-1956), daughter of the Rev. Evan Alltud Davies (1842-1910), in Cwmamman, Carmarthenshire in 1893. They had one son, Evan Kenneth Roy Thomas (1899-1977), who trained as a doctor at Edinburgh University and became an ophthalmic surgeon.

Evan Cambria Thomas received a doctorate in 1904 for his research on the communicable disease diphtheria. Combining his work as a general practitioner and Medical Officer of Health he advanced the latest approaches in health promotion and disease prevention. Detailed records of the inoculations administered by him are preserveded in books held by the Cardiganshire Archives Service. His numerous reports to the authorities emphasised the need for clean water supplies and he also supported a petition by the community for improvements in 1906. He was an active supporter and fundraiser for the building of the Allt-y-Mynydd Consumptive Sanatorium in Llanybydder. Like many pioneers, he suffered from feelings of desperate frustration with the authorities, and he had to force the hands of the guardians, inspectors and council officials. He had personal experience through family tragedies of the impact of disease on public health. Two of his brothers died young, James Thomas (1856-1859) of diphtheria and Griffith Thomas (1858-1859) of unknown causes. His sister, Anne Thomas (1861-1865) died of scarlet fever and his mother of liver disease. He was much more that a 'country physician and surgeon' and his intervention, particularly with the diphtheria epidemic, reflected well on his training, as he looked to apply medical observations from academic research to community intervention. He encouraged the training of ancillary medical professionals and courses in first aid practice. He succeeded in banishing the approaches of the early Victorian quacks and established a professional medical practice, raising standards in this rural community to rival progress in the industrial centres. During the First World War he was appointed Medical Officer of Health for Carmarthenshire, taking over from Dr David Arthur Hughes (1867-1936) who served in the Army Medical Corps.

Dr Evan Cambria Thomas died of cardiac failure and pulmonary congestion at Pantllyn, Llanybydder on 14 March 1930, and was buried at St. Luke's Church, Llanllwni, Carmarthenshire.


Published date: 2021-10-06

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