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Biographical entry Knowles, Robert William Edmund (1936 - 1988)

MRCS and FRCS 1969; MB ChB Sheffield 1960; FRCS Ed 1968.

5 May 1936
Chesterfield, Derbyshire
22 August 1988
Orthopaedic surgeon


Robert William Edmund Knowles was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, on 5 May 1936, the son of Robert Barton Knowles, a medical practitioner and Kathleen, née Pearson, a dental surgeon. His early education was at Broughton Hall, Eccleshall, Staffordshire, and at Repton, before entering medical school in the University of Sheffield. He graduated in 1960 and held early house appointments at Sheffield Royal Hospital where he came under the influence of Sir Frank Holdsworth, Clifford Jones and Derek Randall. He served as rotating surgical registrar at the Royal Hospital passing the FRCS in 1969. He was then senior registrar at Harlow Wood Orthopaedic Hospital and Nottingham General Hospital and in 1973 was awarded the Malkin Travelling Scholarship which enabled him to visit orthopaedic centres in Rome, Florence, Vienna, Zurich and Paris. He published his research into the treatment of compression of the ulnar nerve in the cubital tunnel comparing the results of transposition and decompression.

In 1974 he was appointed consultant orthopaedic surgeon to Grimsby General Hospital and Louth County Hospital in succession to Samuel M Thompson (qv) and introduced the technique of arthroscopy to the hospital. He also prepared many video films to illustrate the orthopaedic techniques of knee replacement, the application of skull traction for fracture dislocations of the cervical spine and the insertion of intra-medullary nails in the treatment of fractures. These were used not only to instruct junior surgeons in orthopaedic techniques but also to attract theatre staff. He served as Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee for three years and throughout his time on the staff of Grimsby Hospital endeavoured to reduce the waiting time for orthopaedic operations.

His outside interests included sailing, fishing, shooting and music. He married Anita Harley, a nursing sister, in 1966 and there were two daughters of the marriage Catherine and Suzannah who is a staff nurse. He later married Heather Heanen, also a nursing sister, in 1975 and they had a son, James, and a daughter, Victoria. He died suddenly from a subarachnoid haemorrhage on 22 August 1988 aged 52.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 23 August 1988].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England