Lives of the fellows

George Reid (Sir) McRobert

b.21 January 1895 d.6 June 1976
Kt(1947) CIE(1942) MB BCh Aber(1917) MD(1923) MRCP(1923) DTM&H(1924) FRCP(1935) Hon FRCPE(1969)

George McRobert, son of Alexander Taylor McRobert, a company director, and his wife Isabella Ogilvie, daughter of James Reid, a bookseller, was born in Aberdeen. He was educated at Robert Gordon’s College and the University of Aberdeen, where he graduated with honours in 1917. Immediately after qualifying he held a temporary commission in the RAMC, and saw active service in France and Mesopotamia. He was then granted a permanent commission in the Indian Medical Service, serving in the Waziristan campaign before transferring to the civil side in 1925. From 1922 to 1924 he was on study leave in England and during this time took the MRCP and the diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene, and also proceeded MD.

Returning to Burma in 1925, he was appointed professor of physiology and pharmacology to the newly founded University of Rangoon. The medical college was a residential establishment in which he held the additional post of medical warden. Although his duties left little time for research, he wrote on electrocardiographic changes during emetine therapy, on the pH of the alimentary tract in rats, and on the histology of the spleen in stress. For the last three years of this period he was secretary of the Burma branch of the BMA. In 1930 he reverted to clinical work as district medical officer in Maymyo, and in 1933 he returned to Europe to undertake further advanced medical studies. He was appointed professor of medicine at the medical college in Madras in 1934, and was also senior physician at Madras General Hospital, being elected a fellow of this College in 1935. During the ensuing nine years he established a reputation as an authority on tropical medicine and as a teacher of exceptional ability. He contributed valuable papers on smallpox and typhus, and on relapsing and cerebrospinal fevers. He also demonstrated the great value of iron in the treatment of the severe anaemia associated with hookworm disease, and participated in an important study of endemic fluorosis in South India. In recognition of his outstanding services in Madras he was appointed a CIE in 1942. During the second world war a proposal that he be appointed consultant physician to the Army in India was vetoed by the Madras Government, on the grounds of his indispensibility. He was promoted colonel on appointment as inspector general of civil hospitals in Bihar Province, a post which he held until he retired from India. He was knighted in 1947.

After his retirement from the IMS in 1951 he was appointed consultant physician to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, London, a post he held until he retired in 1961. He was medical adviser to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations from 1958-1962, and was previously consulting physician to the Colonial Office. For ten years he served on the governing body of University College Hospital, and was also a member of the governing council of Epsom College. From 1961 to 1963 he was president of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

George McRobert was a man of absolute integrity who enjoyed the respect of all who knew him. He was unfailingly courteous, helpful, and loyal to his friends and colleagues, but never hesitated to express his firmly held convictions in forthright terms. He was famous for his outspoken book reviews, and also made valuable contributions to the British Encyclopaedia of Surgical Practice (1948) and to the 6th edition of Rogers’ and Megaw’s Tropical Medicine (1952).

He married Catherine Ellen, daughter of George Thomas Cooper Gregory, an engineer, in 1919. His wife died in 1969 and his son, Ronald, died in 1944 while a medical student. One of his two daughters is also a doctor. His leisure interests included golf, tennis and walking.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
Valérie Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1976, 2, 706 & 889; Lancet, 1976, 1, 1420; Times, 10 June 1976]

(Volume VII, page 371)

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