July 22, 1992

Hugh Cairns: First Nuffield Professor of Surgery, University of Oxford

Author Affiliations

University of California San Diego


by G. J. Fraenkel, 296 pp, with illus, $85, ISBN 0-19-262095-9, New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 1991.

JAMA. 1992;268(4):544-545. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490040128041

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One of the attractions of this biography of a major English neurosurgeon is an appendix, in which there are, alphabetically arranged, long and short notes on people, places, schools, techniques, etc, noted by asterisks in the text. It contains, for instance, an account of the career and philanthropies of Viscount Nuffield (born William Morris), the successful manufacturer of Morris cars— and munitions. Among the endowments he made was one establishing the Nuffield Professorship in Surgery at Oxford, whose first recipient was Hugh Cairns.

How Cairns, born on June 26, 1896, the only child of a village carpenter in South Australia, accomplished this in the early decades of the 20th century is told by Gustave Julius Fraenkel. The author studied medicine at Oxford and was ultimately chosen by Cairns to be Senior Lecturer in Surgery, to give the medical students a good background in general surgery.

Cairns finished medical school in