Macintosh, Sir Robert (1897-1989)

  • Macintosh, Sir Robert, 1897-1989
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The papers cover Macintosh's career from his appointment in 1937 as the first Nuffield Professor in Anaesthetics, until the end of his life in 1989. They comprise papers relating to work of the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, visits to other departments worldwide, and material, such as lectures and publications, on the history of anaesthesia. The collection had little material, except reminiscences, relating to the background to the foundation of the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, but there are papers relating to Macintosh's struggle for adequate accommodation for the department, and his research there. The collection is strongest on illustrating Macintosh's work outside Oxford, as he travelled the world under the auspices of the WHO and the British Council, or to attend conferences and receive awards. This work is shown in the correspondence, lectures and in his travel diaries which gave character sketches, local colour and professional observations.

Unfortunately, apart from some reminiscences to correspondents, there is no material covering the period before he became Professor of Anaesthetics, which included serving in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War, and working in the West End of London in a private anaesthetic practice nicknamed "The Mayfair Gas Company". This was when Macintosh built up his reputation by anaesthetising for dentists, and he remained interested in dental anaesthesia throughout his life, lecturing on courses run by the Society for the Advancement of Anaesthesia in Dentistry.

A clear picture is given of the great advance in the academic and professional standing of anaesthesia over Macintosh's lifetime, and his role in the establishment of academic chairs and the fostering of high standards of training and practice in developing countries and the Commonwealth. Material throughout the collection illustrates Macintosh's concern to investigate the true causes of anaesthetic accidents so that the whole profession could learn from these mistakes.



Physical description

34 boxes 1 o/s folder


The collection is divided into sections as follows:


A.1 Home correspondence 1937 - 1960

A.2 Overseas correspondence 1937 - 1960

A.3 Personal correspondence 1937 - 1960

British anaesthetists

Commonwealth anaesthetists

Foreign anaesthetists

Other doctors


A.4 Home correspondence 1960 - 1989

A.5 Overseas correspondence 1960 - 1989

A.6 Medico - legal correspondence 1951 - 1976


C TRAVEL DIARIES 1937 - 1972

D WRITINGS 1941 - 1987

D.1 Lectures

D.2 Reviews and bibliography

D.3 Notes for his books


E.1 Clinical

E.2 Research notes

E.3 Contemporary anaesthetic practice

E.4 Notes for DA examinations

E.5 Biographies

E.6 History of anaesthesia

E.7 Miscellaneous and unidentified notes



Acquisition note

The papers of Sir Robert Macintosh were given to the library at Wellcome Collection by his widow, Lady Macintosh. The bulk was received in 1991, and a few more items were given in July 1992. Some material which had been stored in the library of the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics was handed over by Sir Keith Sykes in July 1992. This material dovetailed with that given by Lady Macintosh, and presumably it was by chance that it had been left in the department on Macintosh's retirement rather than being transferred to his home with the rest of his papers.

Biographical note

A summary of Sir Robert Macintosh's life and career follows:

1897 Oct Born Timaru, New Zealand. Educated at Waitaki School.

1916 - 1918 War service: commissioned to Royal Scottish Fusiliers, transferred to RFC; plane shot down, taken as POW, three escape attempts. Mentioned in despatches, 1917.

1924 Qualified, Guy's Hospital, London, MRCS, LRCP; FRCS Edinburgh

1927 - 1937 Partner of W.S. McConnel in Harley Street anaesthetic practice, "The Mayfair Gas Company"

Lecturer on anaesthetics to National Dental Hospital, UCH, London.

1937 Appointed as first Nuffield Professor in Anaesthetics

MA, DA (Oxon)

Travelled to USA to visit Professor Waters

1938 Administered anaesthetic in Spanish Civil War for Eastman Sheehan

1939 Awarded Order of Military Merit 2nd Class (Spain)

Passed Diploma in Anaesthetic examination

1939 - 1945 Director of Anaesthetic for RAF

1940 Publication of Essentials of General Anaesthesia

1941 Jul Production of Oxford Vaporiser

Dec Macintosh Laryngoscope described in the Lancet.

1942 Respiration and life jacket experiments with E.A. Pask

1944 Publication of Essentials of General Anaesthesia

1945 Norwegian Order of Merit

Honorary Civilian Consultant in Anaesthetics to RAF

1946 Haakon Medal, Norway

1947 Awarded Hickman Medal

Publication of Physics for the Anaesthetist

1948 Fellow of Faculty of Anaesthetists, Royal College of Surgeons

1950 MD Honora Causa, Buenos Aires

Honorary Fellow Faculty of Anaesthetists, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons

1952 Publication of Lumbar Puncture: Spinal Anaesthesia

MD Hon Causa Aix-Marseilles

1953 Publication of Local Analgesia: Abdominal Surgery

1955 Received knighthood

1956 Death of first wife, Marjorie

1959 Honorary Membership, Association of Anaesthestists of Great Britain and Ireland

Trans-Siberian Railway to Peking, Tour of China

1961 1st refresher course for anaesthetists, WHO, Copenhagen

1962 Married second wife Ann

Hon DSc, University of Wales

1963 2nd refresher course for anaesthetists, WHO, Copenhagen

1964 Fellow of Faculty of Anaesthetists, RCS Ireland

1965 Retired. Honorary Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford

1966 Honorary Fellow Royal Society of Medicine

1967 Awarded John Snow Medal, Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland

DSc, Poznan

1968 Honorary Fellow Faculty Anaesthetists, RCS

1973 Honorary Fellow RCOG

1977 Awarded Labat Medal, American Society of Anaesthesiologists

Honorary DSc, Medical College, Ohio

1987 90th Birthday Celebration and tribute by Section of anaesthetists, RSM and Association of Anaesthetists and Faculty of Anaesthetists, RCS.

1989 Honorary Fellowship, Royal College of Surgeons

Dies on 28th Aug

For further biographical information see obituaries in the Lancet and the British Medical Journal; The Nuffield Department of anaesthetics Oxford 1937 - 1962 (Oxford: OUP, 1963); Jennifer Beinart, A History of the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics Oxford 1937 - 1987, (Oxford: OUP, 1987); WDA Smith and GMC Paterson (eds.), A tribute to Sir Robert Macintosh for his 90th birthday (London: Royal Society of Medicine, 1988).

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

Papers of Macintosh's colleague Hans Georg Epstein (1909-2002), who collaborated with him on the history of anaesthesia, are held as PP/HGE.

Terms of use

This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

Appraisal note

The papers were received in good order, and no major rearrangement was undertaken but some reorganisation was necessary to complete chronological or alphabetical ordering of groups of papers or to reconstitute groups which had become dispersed throughout the rest of the collection. Duplicate material was removed, and items of purely personal or family interest were returned to Lady Macintosh.


Abbreviations used in the catalogue:

BBC British Broadcasting Corporation

BMA British Medical Association

BMJ British Medical Journal

c circa

DA Diploma in Anaesthetics

EMO Epstein, Macintosh, Oxford Inhaler

ENT Ear, nose and throat

ESO Epstein, Suffolk, Oxford Inhaler

FFA Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetics of the Royal College of Surgeons

FRCS Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians

i.v. intravenous

LRCP Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians

MRCS Member of the Royal College of Surgeons

n.d. not dated

NDA Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics

RAF Royal Air Force

RFC Royal Flying Corps

RCOG Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

RCS Royal College of Surgeons

RRM Robert Reynolds Macintosh

RSM Royal Society of Medicine

SAAD Society of the Advancement of Anaesthesia in Dentistry

WHO World Health Organisation

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Accession number

  • 403
  • 450
  • 452