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Biographical entry Cairns, Hugh William Bell (1896 - 1952)

26 June 1896
Port Pirie, South Australia, Australia
18 July 1952
Oxford, England


Hugh Cairns, a South Australian Rhodes scholar, was Nuffield professor of surgery at Oxford 1937-1952. He had an international reputation as a neuro-surgeon, being called on to treat such people as T E Lawrence in 1935 and George S. Patton in 1946.


Born Port Pirie, South Australia, 26 June 1896. Died Oxford, 18 July 1952. KBE 1946. Educated University of Adelaide (MB, BS 1917). Served with the Australian Army Medical Corps 1915, 1918; pathology institute, London Hospital, surgical unit, London Hospital, studied neurosurgery in Boston on a Rockefeller fellowship 1925-26; consulting work, London hospital, operating in West End nursing homes; Nuffield chair of surgery at Oxford 1937-52; adviser on head injuries to the Ministry of Health and neurosurgeon to the army during World War II. Commemorated by the Cairns library at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford.

Published resources


  • Fraenkl, G. J., Hugh Cairns (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1991), 296 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Schurr, Peter H., 'Sir Hugh William Bell Cairns, 1896-1952' in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Details


McCarthy, G.J.