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Biographical entry Wright, Sir Robert Brash (1915 - 1981)

Kt 1976; OBE 1944; DSO 1945; Hon FRCS 1974; BSc Glasgow 1934; MB ChB 1937; ChM 1952; FRCS Ed 1947; FRFPS Glas 1948; FRCS Glas 1962; Hon FRACS 1968; FRCP 1971.

1 March 1915
4 December 1981
General surgeon


Robert Brash Wright was born on 1 March 1915, the second son of Dr Hugh P Wright. He was educated at Hamilton Academy and the University of Glasgow and early showed the ability which was to distinguish him later by gaining many prizes and awards. He took the BSc in 1934 and qualified MB ChB with honours in 1937. He served with the RAMC during the second world war and was awarded the OBE in 1944 and the DSO in 1945. He was appointed assistant surgeon at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow in 1946 and took the FRCS Ed in 1947 and the FRFPS Glas in 1948. In 1953 he was appointed surgeon in charge of the Southern General Hospital, a position that he held until his retirement in 1980.

In 1962, after the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow awarded separate Fellowships in surgery and medicine, he became FRCS Glas. He was President of the Combined College from 1968 to 1970 and was elected FRCP in 1971. He had been made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1968, and in 1975 was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He received his knighthood in 1976.

His published papers were on gastro-enterology, vascular disorders and postgraduate education and training. In 1970 he became a member of the General Medical Council, where his devotion to duty and his love of his profession became apparent outside the purely surgical field. His sound common sense, ability to marshal facts and to present them succinctly in debate and his obvious integrity gained wide respect. He was soon appointed to various committees, and became Chairman of the Overseas Committee and Deputy Chairman, under the then President, Lord Richardson, of the Disciplinary Committee. Here he displayed sympathy, humanity and understanding, but also a firm yet kindly skill in demolishing fallacious arguments. He was always a very private individual even with members of his own family.

In 1980 he succeeded Lord Richardson as President of the GMC. The constitution of the Council had been re-organised in 1979, and the new and enlarged membership provided a considerable challenge to his powers of leadership. He rapidly demonstrated that he was equal to his task, and gained the respect, admiration and affection of the members. Both his humility and his humour were also demonstrated after his open-heart operation when he said 'to have one's sternum split is surprisingly uncomfortable'. After surmounting this hurdle it was only a short time before he developed his final fatal illness, which he bore with the expected courage. He resigned from the Presidency in November 1981 and died on 4 December 1981, aged 66, leaving his wife Helen, nee Tait, one son and two daughters.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1981, 283, 1616; The Times 12 December 1981].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England