Barnes, Robert (DNB12)

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BARNES, ROBERT (1817–1907), obstetric physician, born at Norwich on 4 Sept. 1817, was second son and second child of the six children of Philip Barnes, an architect and one of the founders of the Royal Botanic Society of London, by his wife Harriet Futter, daughter of a Norfolk squire. The father, also of an old Norfolk family, claimed descent from Robert Barnes [q. v.], the Marian martyr. Educated at Bruges from 1826 to 1830 and at home, where one of his tutors was George Borrow, author of ‘The Bible in Spain,’ Barnes began his medical career in 1832 as an apprentice in Norwich to Dr. Richard Griffin, founder of an association of poor-law medical men. When his family moved to London he continued his medical work at University College, the Windmill Street school, and at St. George's Hospital. After becoming M.R.C.S. in 1842 he spent a year in Paris, where he paid much attention to mental diseases; on his return to London after unsuccessfully competing for the post of resident physician at Bethlehem Royal Hospital, he settled in general practice in Notting Hill and engaged in literary work on the ‘Lancet.’ His ambition was to become a medical teacher. He soon lectured at the Hunterian School of Medicine and on forensic medicine at Dermott's School, and was obstetric surgeon to the Western general dispensary. He graduated M.D. London in 1848, and in 1853 became L.R.C.P. and in 1859 F.R.C.P.

On 1 April 1859 Barnes was elected assistant obstetric physician, and on 14 July 1863 obstetric physician, to the London Hospital. From the London Hospital he passed on 24 April 1865 to a like post at St. Thomas's Hospital, where he was lectured on midwifery since April 1862. In 1875 he left St. Thomas's Hospital, where he was dean of the medical school, to become obstetric physician at St. George's Hospital; there he was elected consulting obstetric physician in 1885. He thus had the rare distinction of lecturing on midwifery at three great medical schools in London. He had also acted as physician to the Seamen's Hospital, the East London Hospital for Children, and the Royal Maternity Hospital.

Barnes took a prominent part in founding the Obstetrical Society of London in 1858 and was president in 1865–6. But a dispute with the council of this society led him in 1884 to establish the British Gynæcological Society, of which he was honorary president until his death. The justification of the schism was the antagonism of the old society to the performance of ovariotomy and other important operations by obstetricians. Barnes was one of the pioneers of operative gynæcology, and the cause he advocated gained the day. The two societies were united in the obstetrical and gynæcological section of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1907.

At the College of Physicians Barnes delivered the Lumleian lectures ‘On Convulsive Diseases in Women’ in 1873 and was censor (1877–8). He was elected honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1883; of the Medical Society of London in 1893 (he had given the Lettsomian lectures in 1858), and of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society at the centenary meeting of 1905.

A leading teacher and gynæcologist in London, Barnes was a rival of James Matthews Duncan [q. v. Suppl. I] both in debates at the Obstetrical Society and in practice. One of the first to work at the minute pathology of obstetrics, he influenced the progress of obstetric medicine. His name has been attached to an obstetric instrument and to a curve of the pelvis. He expressed with decision his very definite opinions, and his mental and physical vigour was shown by his learning Spanish when over eighty-five and by rowing out to sea and bathing from the boat until he was eighty-nine. He was a director of the Prudential Assurance Company (1848–9; 1884–1907), amassed a considerable fortune, and gave liberally to medical institutions, among others to the medical school of St. George's Hospital, where the pathological laboratory is called after him. He died at Eastbourne on 12 May 1907, and was buried there. A portrait by Horsburgh is in possession of his family.

Barnes married: (1) Eliza Fawkener, daughter of a London solicitor; (2) Alice Maria, daughter of Captain W. G. Hughes, of Carmarthenshire, D.L. and J.P. for that county. By his first wife he had one son, Dr. R. S. Fancourt Barnes, and two daughters, and by his second wife one son and one daughter. Besides thirty-two papers in the ‘Transactions of the Obstetrical Society,’ and an official report on scurvy at the Seamen's Hospital, 1864, Barnes was author of: 1. ‘Obstetrical Operations,’ 1870; 3rd ed. 1876; translated into French. 2. ‘Medical and Surgical Diseases of Women,’ 1873; translated into French. 3. ‘Obstetric Medicine and Surgery,’ 2 vols. (with his son, Fancourt Barnes), 1884. 4. ‘Causes of Puerperal Fever,’ 1887.

[Brit. Med. Journ., 1907, ii. 1221; information from his son-in-law, H. Robinson, M.D.]

H. D. R.