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Biographical entry Janes, Robert Meredith (1894 - 1966)

Hon FRCS 1955, MD Toronto 1916, FRCS(C); FACS; Hon MD Laval.

6 September 1894
Watford, Ontario, Canada
23 November 1966
General surgeon and Thoracic surgeon


Robert Janes was born the son of a farmer at Watford, Ontario on 6 September 1894, and never lost his love of the land and the beauties of nature. Shortly after graduating in medicine from the University of Toronto in 1916, he joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps and served in England and France till 1919, chiefly in laboratories, where his duties provided a sure foundation for a surgical career. He held junior surgical appointments at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and at the Toronto General Hospital; there was also a period in 1922 when he worked at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. He became surgeon to the Toronto General Hospital in 1923, and in association with Norman Shenstone developed a centre for thoracic surgery which became world-famous for technical advances in lung resection. His thoracic work was not confined to the lung, for he wrote also of his experience in the removal of tumours of the chest wall, and in treating diverticula of the lower oesophagus.

In 1947 Janes succeeded Edward Gallie as Professor of Surgery in the University of Toronto and Surgeon-in-Chief of the Toronto General Hospital, an appointment which he held till his retirement in 1957. He took over the department at a time when many young doctors were returning from war service, which gave him the opportunity of developing still further the excellent training programme instituted by Gallie which had already established the reputation of Toronto as a first-class centre for surgical training. His trainees learnt much more than mere surgical technique, and the influence of his warm friendship so endeared him to them that in 1955 they formed the Janes Surgical Society, at the annual meetings of which Dr and Mrs Janes were present as the patrons. The Society celebrated his 70th birthday in 1964 by meetings in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, culminating in a dinner at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, an occasion which was appreciated by his many friends in the College.

Janes was much more than a great surgeon, a superb teacher, and an able administrator, for his integrity and wisdom made him an ideal leader, and his counsel was sought and obtained by many bodies beyond his own department. He served for many years on the Council of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, of which he was President in 1955-57. He was on the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons, and President of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery and the Canadian Association of Clinical Surgeons. He was responsible for the inception of the Canadian journal of surgery in 1957, which owed much to his wise guidance as chairman of the editorial board till he retired from that office in 1965. Indeed his services to surgery knew no national bounds, and his natural genius for friendship was manifested as far afield as the West Indies and parts of Africa which he visited as Simms Commonwealth Travelling Professor in 1958.

It is remarkable that in the course of such a full professional life he found time for other occupations and hobbies, but he was able to do a great deal of specialized photography, and took a delight in gardening, with a particular interest in growing roses. He was never happier than when he was at home with his charming wife Lil, who was his constant helpmeet in every kind of activity, and their two daughters. He died on 23 November 1966.

Sources used to compile this entry: [J Can Med Assn 1966, 95, 1399;Ann Roy Coll Surg Eng 1967, 40, 121].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England