Lives of the fellows

Robert Barnes

b.4 September 1817 d.12 May 1907
MD Lond FRCP(1859) Hon FRCS

Robert Barnes was born at Norwich, the second son of Philip Barnes, architect and founder of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Regent’s Park, London, by his wife Harriet Futter of Norfolk. Barnes was educated at Bruges and at his father’s home in Norwich, where he read for a time with George Borrow. At the age of fifteen, he was apprenticed to a local surgeon; he then became a medical student at University College, London, and afterwards at St. George’s Hospital. Having qualified in 1842, he went to Paris with £10 in his pocket and maintained himself there for a year by writing and giving English lessons. On returning to London, he entered general practice at Notting Hill, but in 1859 was appointed assistant obstetric physician, and, in 1863 obstetric physician, to the London Hospital. In 1865, however, he left the London Hospital to become obstetric physician to St. Thomas’s where he had lectured on midwifery since 1862. A further move ten years later took him back to St. George’s in the same capacity. He also held appointments at the Seamen’s Hospital, the East London Hospital for Children and the Royal Maternity Hospital.

Barnes was a voluminous writer, his two best known books being Lectures on Obstetric Operations (1870) and Medical and Surgical Diseases of Women (1873). He delivered the Lettsomian Lectures in 1858 at the Medical Society of London and the Lumleian Lectures in 1873 at the Royal College of Physicians, where he was a Censor. He was a frequent speaker on his own subjects both in England and in France, where his fluency in idiomatic French was a great asset. Although he was a recognised leader in obstetrics many of his views were strongly criticised by such distinguished contemporaries as Matthews Duncan, Galabin and Champneys. But Barnes was always fond of a fight and, having once formed his opinion after prolonged and careful personal observation, he was seldom to be moved. He retired from practice and settled at Eastbourne some twenty years before he died but retained his physical and mental vigour until he was nearly ninety, seldom missing his daily swim in the sea and his weekly visit to London; at the age of eighty-five he took up the study of Spanish. His first wife was Eliza Fawkener, daughter of a London solicitor, by whom he had one son and two daughters. His second wife, whom he married in 1880, was Alice Maria, daughter of Capt. W. G. Hughes, J.P, of Carmarthenshire, by whom he had one son and one daughter.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1907; B.M.J., 1907; D.N.B., 2nd Suppl., iI 100]

(Volume IV, page 99)

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