Lives of the fellows

Cyril George Barnes

b.13 March 1908 d.17 April 1989
MRCS LRCP(1932) MB BS Lond(1932) MD(1934) MRCP(1935) FRCP(1944) FRCOG(1976)

Cyril Barnes was the son of a doctor and grandson of another. He was educated at St Paul’s School, where he was a foundation scholar, and St Mary’s Hospital medical school, which he also entered with a scholarship. After graduation he spent two years in general practice in London and then returned to St Mary’s as an assistant to the medical professorial unit, being awarded the gold medal in medicine when he gained his MD. In 1937 he was appointed assistant director of the medical unit under F S Langmead [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.273], and also assistant physician to Queen Charlotte's Hospital. During the second world war, Barnes was posted to Hillingdon Hospital, then in St Mary’s sector of the EMS. He remained there, was appointed to its consultant staff, and had much to do with its development into a major regional hospital. In 1944 he was elected to the fellowship of the College.

Barnes’ greatest strength was that of a didactic teacher: he admitted a lack of originality of thought but made up for it by his clarity in assembling and expounding the thinking of others. His lucid lectures and clinical presentations were deservedly popular with both students and postgraduates. He was a good and careful clinician and extended the same courtesy to his patients that he gave to his colleagues, of all disciplines. He was a reserved man, but very popular, and was warmly remembered by both students and colleagues long after they had left Hillingdon. It was a common experience for consultants at Hillingdon to be asked ‘And how is the Baron?’. There was never any doubt who they meant.

Cyril Barnes special interest was in medical disorders in pregnancy and both at Queen Charlotte’s and at Hillingdon, with its large obstetric department, he acquired wide experience. He took his textbook Medical disorders in obstetric practice, Oxford, Blackwell Scientific, 1962, through five editions and it was translated into several languages. In 1976 he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists ad eundem.

Barnes welcomed the National Health Service and the principles upon which it was based. It seemed to him to be a natural development from the Emergency Medical Service born of the exigencies of war, and also to have been foreshadowed by the Middlesex County Council’s farsighted policy of developing the well staffed regional hospitals, of which Hillingdon was one. However, he regretted the later changes, particularly the tendency to move away from whole-time consultant posts and the increasing powers of non-medical administrators. He thus became ill at ease in an environment which he had previously enjoyed. He also became afflicted with deafness, and for these two reasons he retired a little prematurely in 1971.

Cyril Barnes was always immaculately dressed and his movements and diction were precise, but his eyes sparkled and humour was never far away. He kept these characteristics to the end of his life and his appearance changed hardly at all over the decades. His private life he reserved almost entirely to himself; he was unmarried and lived with his sister to whom he gave devoted care when she suffered disablement. He died after a very short illness.

A H James

[Brit.med.J., 1989,298, 1705]

(Volume IX, page 28)

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