Lives of the fellows

Robert Alexander Gibbons

b.1854 d.23 August 1934
MB CM Edin(1874) MD Edin(1877) FRCSE(1882) MRCP(1883) FCOG(1929) FRCP(1933)

Robert Gibbons, who was to become one of London’s most beloved physicians, was born in Canada of Scots parentage; his father was David Gibbons, a commissary general, his mother Frances, the daughter of James Ireland-Williamson, a captain in the Royal Navy. Brought to England shortly after his birth he was educated at the University of Edinburgh. After resident posts at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and at the East Suffolk and Ipswich and Great Ormond Street Hospitals he set up in general practice in Cadogan Place. Although he continued to attend some influential people as a general practitioner he became more and more interested in midwifery and the diseases of women, and applied for and was appointed obstetric physician to St. George’s and St. James’s Dispensary and the Royal Pimlico Dispensary.

He founded the Grosvenor Hospital for Women in two small houses in Vincent Square; by his tireless enthusiasm and popularity it soon became fully equipped. Fired by his interest in what starts labour, he collected the Gibbons Research Fund and handed it over to Professor (later Sir) Charles Dodds for work in the Courtauld Institute of Biochemistry.

With that work he kept in continual touch, patiently accumulating a working knowledge of what had been done in research on female sex hormones. The demand for his services as an obstetrician was such that he decided not to accept an appointment at a teaching hospital, but he became a member of the Board of Governors of St. George’s Hospital, honorary consultant to the British Hospital for Mothers and Babies, and a foundation fellow of the British (later the Royal) College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

He was well worthy of the honours of the College Fellowship and Knight Grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. He contributed many papers to medical journals, including two on the causation of labour (J. ObsteL Gynaec. Brit. Emp., 1927, 34, 739-55; 1932, 39, 539-49), and provided the articles on dysmenorrhoea, dysparemia and sterility in Latham and English’s System of treatment (1912). In 1923 he published Sterility in woman.

No one who knew Gibbons was surprised at his success, for he was a great gentleman, charming, courteous and lovable.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1934, 2, 493 (p), 536; J. Obstet. Gynaec. Brit. Emp., 1934, 41 777-9; Lancet, 1934, 2, 515-6.]

(Volume V, page 147)

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