Lives of the fellows

John Shields Fairbairn

b.21 December 1865 d.22 January 1944
BA Oxon(1891) MA DM Hon MD Melb FRCS FRCOG FRCP(1909) Hon MMSA

John Fairbairn was born at Bathgate in East Lothian, the elder son of Rev. Andrew Martin Fairbairn, D.D, first principal of Mansfield College, Oxford. He entered Magdalen College, Oxford, with an open demyship from Bradford Grammar School, and graduated as B.A. with first-class honours in natural science in 1891. He qualified in medicine at St. Thomas’s Hospital in 1895. Devoting himself to obstetrics from the first, he became pathologist to the Chelsea Hospital for Women, physician to the General Lying-In Hospital, and, in 1902, assistant obstetric physician and lecturer on midwifery and the diseases of women at St. Thomas’s, where he had already held junior posts. During the 1914-1918 War he served with the rank of captain on the staff of the 5th London General Hospital. At various times he examined for London, Cambridge, Glasgow, Oxford, Birmingham and Leeds Universities, the Conjoint Board and the Society of Apothecaries. At the Royal College of Physicians he gave the Bradshaw Lecture in 1931. Fairbairn was the author of a Textbook for Midwives (1914) and Gynaecology with Obstetrics (1924) and a contributor to the well-known Midwifery by Ten Teachers (1917). He edited the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Empire for some time and the Practitioner's Encyclopaedia of Midwifery and Diseases of Women (1921).

But it was probably as an organiser of education and as a teacher that he performed his most valuable work. A believer in the indivisibility of obstetrics and gynaecology, he was chiefly responsible for the institution of the Mastership of Midwifery at the Society of Apothecaries, and for revising the regulations of the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists during his term as president. Equally zealous for the education of midwives, he founded the Camberwell Post-Certificate School and was a most energetic member of the Central Midwives Board, both before and after becoming its chairman. A clinical teacher of exceptional merit, he showed his enthusiasm in his rounds with students and was a keen debater and an aggressive critic, keeping himself well-informed in all branches of medicine. He retired in 1936 to Lossiemouth, making a hobby of his rock-garden, and it was at Lossiemouth that he died. His wife was Elma, daughter of J. P. Stewart of Elgin.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1944; B.M.J., 1944]

(Volume IV, page 501)

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