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Professor Tanner believed in life before death

Professor James Mourilyan Tanner (1920-2010) was a Life member of the British Humanist Association and professor emeritus of the Institute of Child Health at the University of London. He was a renowned expert on human auxology and his contributions to medical science have helped people the world over. 

Professor Tanner died on the 11 August this year aged 90, and his humanist funeral was conducted by BHA celebrant Alison Orchard on 23 August. In a eulogy written and read by Professor Noel Cameron from Loughborough University at his funeral, Professor Tanner was described as ‘An intelligent, well read and thoughtful man, scientific and global in outlook.

‘He had faith in life before death and believed in human endeavour, and, particularly through his unstinting work as an expert human auxologist of world renown, Professor Tanner left humanity better than he found it; there are many people, not here, whose lives have more quality because Jim lived.’

Of his work at the Institute of Child Health, Professor Cameron said, ‘The Department of Growth and Development was by the early 1970s, a centre for research in human growth that was unequalled in the world.  Whilst there were other centres and institutes in both Europe and America that focussed on human growth, none had the breadth and depth of research that was occurring within that department. … The department had resulted from Jim’s decision to make the study of human growth and development the central research theme of his academic life.’

‘I’m sure our clinical colleagues would agree that the he also made fundamental contributions to the clinical assessment and diagnosis of growth disorders, he pioneered the treatment of children with growth hormone deficiency, and the growth disorder clinics formed an educational centre for clinicians from throughout the world in which to study the diagnosis and treatment of growth disorders.’

‘Gently charismatic in nature, Jim was an academic and teacher with a huge international following.’

‘With the news of Jim’s death messages of sorrow and condolences started to arrive in my computer in-box.  One came from a current PhD student who said that it may be corny but it was also true that a little of Jim Tanner continues to live in all of those who study human growth and development.  I thought that to be an appropriate accolade for a scientist and teacher that his (or her) work continues to inform generation after generation of students and is thus a living memorial to a life well spent.’


Download a full tribute

Humanist Ceremonies is the BHA’s network of trained and accredited celebrants in England and Wales. Humanist funerals are widely regarded as unique, personal and often celebratory events, focusing on the life of the person who has died, rather than on doctrines which may not be shared by family and friends at the service.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the growing population of ethically concerned, non-religious. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for a secular state and an end to discrimination based on religion or belief.

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