Lives of the fellows

Robert Barrie Niven

b.5 August 1910 d.16 February 1999
BA Cape Town(1929) MA(1930) MRCS LRCP(1937) MA Oxon(1937) BM BCh(1937) MRCP(1942) FRCP(1969)

Robert Barrie Niven was a consultant physician at King George Hospital, Ilford. He was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the son of James Just Niven, a civil engineer. He was educated at St Charles College, Pietermaritzburg, and then went to Cape Town University, where he studied classics and history.

He went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, to study animal physiology, and then studied medicine at King’s College Hospital. He had intended to return to South Africa as a medical missionary, but met and married Edith Whetnall, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, in 1939, and they decided to make their careers in Britain.

From 1942 to 1946 he served in the RAF’s medical branch, as a squadron leader and a medical specialist, seeing action in Italy, Austria and Egypt. He then became a medical registrar at the Royal Free, before being appointed as a consultant physician at the Metropolitan Hospital. He later gained consultant positions at King George Hospital, Ilford, Belmont Hospital, Sutton, and St Anthony’s Hospital, Cheam.

When his wife was injured in a car crash she turned her energy to working for the deaf, founding and directing the Nuffield Hearing and Speech Centre. Robert became involved in her work, editing her writing and accompanying her on a lecture tour of the United States. On her death he endowed the Edith Whetnall lecture at the Royal Society of Medicine.

After his retirement he became a member and then chairman of the Pensions Appeals Tribunals. He married his second wife, Anne, in 1967. He enjoyed reading, touring in his motor caravan and gardening. He died from an aortic aneurysm.

RCP editor

[Brit.med.J., 1999,318,1357]

(Volume XI, page 421)

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