Obituary: Donald Barlow

Donald Spiers Monteagle Barlow, surgeon: born 4 July 1905; RMO, Wimbledon Hospital 1927; House Physician, University College Hospital 1928, House Surgeon 1929; House Surgeon, Norfolk and Norwich Hospital 1930-31; Resident Assistant Surgeon, West London Hospital 1931-35; Surgeon Registrar, London Lock Hospital 1936; researcher, UCL 1936-37; Consultant Surgeon, Southend Group of Hospitals 1936-70, Consulting Surgeon 1970-94; Consultant Surgeon, Luton Group of Hospitals 1940-70, Consulting Surgeon 1970-94; Consultant Surgeon, Hospitals for Diseases of the Chest 1947-71, Consulting Surgeon 1971-94, Honorary Consultant Thoracic Surgeon 1955-70, Consulting Surgeon 1970-94; Surgical Tutor, Royal College of Surgeons of England 1962-69, Penrose-May Surgical Tutor 1969-94; teacher, Institute of Diseases of the Chest, London University 1964-67, Lecturer 1967-71; married 1934 Elizabeth Maciver (one son, three daughters, and one daughter deceased); died London 5 July 1994.

WITH THE DEATH of Donald Barlow, the age of the 'general surgeons' has, perhaps, passed, but one may hope that the next generation of surgeons will have the good fortune to work with a colleague as splendid as he was. He died at the age of 89, just one day after he had reached that age.

Barlow went to Whitgift School, Croydon, and thence to University College Hospital, London, for his medical training. There he graduated, as was possible in those days, at the age of 21, having first passed as MRCS, LRCP and later in the year the London MB BS with honours. Three years later he passed the examination for the Fellowship of the College of Surgeons of England at the age of 24. At that time, and maybe it is still so, no one could become a fellow of the college until he was 25 and so he had to wait one year for his degree. Two years later, in 1930, he passed the examination for the Mastership of Surgery at London University at possibly the youngest age ever recorded and tied for the Gold Medal.

After qualification, he had posts as a house surgeon and as a registrar (there were no Senior Registrars in those days) in several different hospitals, but in 1936, when he was 31, he was appointed to his first consultant post at the Southend Hospital, where he continued to work until he retired, and four years later he was appointed as a general surgeon to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital, another post which he held until retirement in 1970.

Barlow was appointed to the staff of the London Chest Hospital shortly after the Second World War and I had the good fortune to get to that hospital as his Senior Registrar a short time later. At Southend and at Luton he was then known as 'General Surgeon', but at the London Chest Hospital he was a specialist 'Thoracic Surgeon'. He must have been one of the very last general surgeons in Britain, as many of the now recognised specialities were in their infancy at that time. In 1948 the Association of Thoracic Surgeons was able to meet in a ward in the London Chest Hospital; there were only 15 of them. Barlow was one of these. Now there are nearly 200.

As was the custom in the early Fifties, Barlow was appointed to several other hospitals, including the Italian Hospital near Soho, in central London. He invented several surgical instruments and several new operations. He made important contributions to oesophageal surgery of which he was the leading exponent at the London Chest Hospital.

There was another part of his career in which he made important contributions. In effect, he set up thoracic surgery in Ceylon, where he went in the early Fifties and again in the late Sixties. There, rightly, he became an honorary MB BS Ceylon.

Donald Barlow drove enormous distances in his old Rolls-Royce between Southend, London, Luton and his home in Harpenden. He was perhaps the most peripatetic thoracic surgeon of all time. I had the good luck to work for him and with him for almost all the period he was at the London Chest Hospital and in all those years we never had a cross word - with Barlow it would have been impossible.

He was a tremendous enthusiast in everything that he did and some of us thought he was a boy who never grew up. He once made a film of himself doing a sword- swallowing act, which he showed at a professional meeting - he had never done it before or since.

He was married in 1934 to Elizabeth Maciver, who had been the Theatre Sister at Great Ormond Street Hospital. They had five children, one of whom - John - is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments