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James L. and Dorothy Knowles Thomson papers

Identifier: 2004.May.6

Scope and Contents

This collection contains papers of Dr. James L. Thomson and his wife, Dorothy Knowles Thomson. Dr. Thomson's papers include World War II memorabilia and photographs as well as papers from the Excelsior Club, a group of surgeons brought together by the war. The papers of Mrs. Thomson, an instructor of operating room nursing at the Medical College of Virginia, include teaching materials and personal effects.


  • Creation: 1931 - 1985


Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. James L. Thomson was a nationally-known neurosurgeon. He graduated from the Medical College of the University of Cincinnati in 1934 and taught neurological surgery at the Medical College of Virginia from 1938-1941. He served in World War II as neurosurgeon to the 45th General Hospital in Morocco and Italy. He was one of seven officers in the unit awarded the Bronze Star. After the War, Thomson practiced in Norfolk, Va. He was the first neurosurgeon to practice in the Tidewater area and saw patients at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth and the Marine Public Health Hospitals in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, and Suffolk. Thomson was a charter member of the Excelsior Surgical Society, a group of 80 medical officers who met for the first time in 1945 at the Excelsior Hotel, Rome, Italy. He also helped organize the Neurosurgical Society of the Virginias and was its first president. In 1959, Thomson was cited by the President's Committee for the Physically Handicapped for his efforts to employ those with physical handicaps while a member of the Medical Advisory Board of the State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. At the time of his death in 1973, he was Chief of Neurosurgery at Norfolk General and DePaul Hospitals, a diplomat of the American Board of Neurological Surgery, and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. James L. Thomson married Dorothy Mae Knowles on 15 May, 1940. They had two children, Martha and James. Dorothy Mae Knowles grew up in Woodard, North Carolina and graduated from the Medical College of Virginia's nursing program in 1934. From 1937-1940, Knowles was an Instructor and Supervisor of Operating Room Technique at MCV. With her husband, she was a charter member of the Excelsior Surgical Society. In 1995, she established the James L. Thomson, MD and Dorothy Knowles Thomson, RN Fund for the School of Nursing to heighten awareness alternative and complementary therapies.


0.8 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Records are in chronological order.

Acquisition Information

Donated by the Thomson family.

A Guide to the James L. and Dorothy Knowles Thomson papers, 1936-1987
A Collection in Special Collections and Archives, Health Sciences Library, Virginia Commonwealth University, accession number 2004.05.06
Jody Romero
2005 By Virginia Commonwealth University. All Rights Reserved.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the VCU Health Sciences Library Repository

Special Collections and Archives 509 N 12th St
Box 980582
Richmond Virginia 23298 USA US
(804) 828-9898