Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Duthie, Robert Buchan (1925 - 2005)

CBE 1984; MRCS and FRCS 1967; MB ChB Edin 1948; MD 1949; ChM Edin 1956; Hon DSc Rochester, New York, 1982; FRCS Edin 1954; FACS 1962; Hon FACS 1987.

4 May 1925
Detroit, Michigan, USA
25 December 2005
Orthopaedic surgeon


Robert Duthie was Nuffield professor of orthopaedic surgery at Oxford University. He was born in Detroit, USA, on 4 May 1925, the second son of James Andrew Duthie, an engineer with the Ford Motor Company, and Elizabeth Jean née Hunter. He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and King Edward VI Grammar School Chelmsford, Essex, before reading medicine at Edinburgh University, where he won the Robert Jones prize.

After qualifying in 1948, he spent a year as orthopaedic house surgeon to Sir Walter Mercer, which determined his decision to follow an orthopaedic career. Following National Service as a captain in the RAMC in Malaya he returned to Edinburgh as an orthopaedic registrar at the Royal Infirmary, before becoming a senior registrar at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London. Then followed two years as the Crichton research scholar in Edinburgh, researching the histochemistry of osteogenesis, for which he was awarded the ChM with gold medal.

Duthie was appointed chairman of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Rochester, New York, and surgeon in chief at the Strong Memorial Hospital. In 1966 he returned to the UK on his appointment to the Nuffield chair of orthopaedics in Oxford, with a professorial fellowship at Worcester College. There he developed structural undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and training programmes, and encouraged active participation in research, establishing collaborative clinical and research units in the management of haemophilia, arthritis, metabolic bone disease and bioengineering.

His textbook on haemophilia was widely recognised and Mercer’s Orthopaedic surgery under his editorship retained its place as a leading orthopaedic textbook. In addition he published many papers in collaboration with his juniors and served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and the British Journal of Surgery.

In 1971 he was appointed adviser in orthopaedics and trauma surgery to the Department of Health and Social Security, and in 1973 chairman of the advisory committee for research into artificial limbs and was appointed a member of the Royal Commission on Civil Liability and Personal Injury.

Duthie believed that the English College had undue influence when compared with its counterpart in Edinburgh, to which he devoted lifelong loyalty, encouraging Oxford trainees to take the Edinburgh rather than the English fellowship. When he became president of the British Orthopaedic Association in 1984 he promoted a fundraising campaign, which afterwards became the Wishbone Trust, to raise money for the funding of a separate College of Othopaedic Surgery, an aspiration with recurs from time to time in some quarters.

In 1956 Robert Duthie married Alison Ann Macpherson Kittemaster, a nurse to whom he remained devoted, both occupying the same old people’s home towards the end of their lives. They had two sons and two daughters. He included tennis, gardening and sailing among his recreations. He died on Christmas Day 2005.

Sources used to compile this entry: [J Bone Joint Surg [Br] 2006; 88-B: 696-7].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England