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Biographical entry Robin, Ian Gibson (1909 - 2005)

MRCS 1933; FRCS 1935; MB BChir Cambridge 1933; LRCP 1933.

22 May 1909
Woodford Green, Essex, UK
18 April 2005
ENT surgeon


Ian Robin was a distinguished London ear, nose and throat consultant. He was born at Woodford Green, Essex, on 22 May 1909, the son of Arthur Robin, a Scottish general practitioner, and Elizabeth Parker née Arnold, his American mother. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School, in Edinburgh, and at Clare College, Cambridge, where he achieved a half blue in cross country running (once getting lost in the fog) and gained a senior science scholarship to Guy’s Hospital, London. There he won the Treasurer’s gold medal in both clinical surgery and clinical medicine, the Charles Oldman prize in ophthalmology and the Arthur Durham travelling scholarship. At Guy’s he returned to rugby, in which sport he had won a school cap at Merchiston, and subsequently captained the hospital’s first XV. He also played regularly for the United Hospitals and the Eastern Counties.

After graduating in 1933 he became house physician to Sir Arthur Hirst and Sir John Conybere and house surgeon to Sir Heneage Ogilive and Sir Russell Brock at Guy's and house surgeon to Sir Lancelot Barrington-Ward at the Royal Northern Hospital, during which time he passed the FRCS. He was so highly thought of that in 1937 he was invited back to the Royal Northern to become a part-time ENT consultant whilst still working as a senior ENT registrar and chief clinical assistant at Guy's Hospital, where he was much influenced by W M Mollison, T B Layton and R J Cann. In the same year he started his private practice, which he continued until 1994. In 1947 Ian Robin was appointed consultant ENT surgeon to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. He served both St Mary's and the Royal Northern until his retirement in 1974.

At the onset of the Second World War Ian was invalided out of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve because of his left total deafness (the result of mastoid surgery as a child) and served with the EMS Sector 3 London Area seconded to the Royal Chest Hospital. He put his disability to good use and, always a practical optimist, he used to remark that ‘if he turned in bed onto his good ear he did not hear the guns and doodle bugs.’

Although he, together with J Golligher, in 1952 performed the first colon transplant in the treatment of post cricoid cancer, he was principally an otologist and was deeply concerned about deaf people and those who cared for them. A member of the medical and scientific committee and one-time vice chairman of the Royal National Institute of the Deaf (from 1954 to 1958) he was also, in 1953, a founder member of the Deaf Children's Society (later the National Deaf Children's Society) and, through the British Association of Otolarynoglogists, of which he became president in 1972, he fought hard for improved recognition and pay of audiological technicians and was the first chairman of the Hearing Aid Technicians Society. Determined to relieve children of the burden of body-worn hearing aids, Ian tried to convince the then Secretary of State for Health (Barbara Castle) that the newly available post-aural aids should be issued to children.

In the Royal Society of Medicine Ian Robin was vice-president of the section of otology (from 1966 to 1969) and president of the section of laryngology (from 1967 to 1968), where his presidential address on ‘snoring’ raised much public interest. He gave the Yearsley lecture on ‘the handicap of deafness’ in 1967 and the Jobson Horne lecture in 1969. He jointly wrote A synopsis of otorhinolarynoglogy (John Wright, Bristol, 1957), and chapters on deafness in the second and third editions of Diseases of the ear, nose and throat. His last article, entitled ‘Personal experience of deafness’ was published in ENT News in 2003.

Always popular with his colleagues and loved by his patients, he treated his juniors with great friendliness, regarding them as equals. He also took an active part in many student activities at St Mary’s Hospital. In his long retirement Ian Robin was able to continue his hobbies of golf, bowls, gardening, furniture restoration and painting, where he was an active exhibiting member of the Medical Art Society. In later retirement he progressively lost his sight and remaining hearing, but this did not stop him at the age of 90 becoming singles champion of Rutland Blind Bowls Club or completing a computer course to learn a voice activated programme.

His first wife Shelagh (née Croft), whom he married in 1939, died suddenly in 1978. In 1994 Ian happily married Patricia Lawrence (Pat), who was the first patient that he operated on when he became a consultant at the Royal Northern Hospital when he was aged 28 and she 13.

Neil Weir

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2005 331 355, GKT Gazette September 2005].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England