Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Owen, Robert Davies (1898 - 1988)

CBE 1961; MRCS 1924; FRCS ad eundem 1950; BSc Cardiff 1921; FRCS Ed 1926; LRCP 1924.

8 May 1898
Morfa Nevin, Caernarvonshire
15 October 1988
ENT surgeon


Robert Davies Owen was born on 8 May 1898 at Morfa Nevin, Caernarvonshire, the second son of Griffith Owen, a master mariner and his wife Jane, nee Davies, the daughter of a master mariner. He was educated at Towyn Grammar School and University College, Cardiff. On leaving school he became a cadet in the merchant navy. His ship was torpedoed in 1918 and he was one of the nine survivors out of forty-two who landed in Bantry Bay. Having lost his father at sea during the same war he resolved during his ordeal that should he be saved he would seek a career as a surgeon.

After six months disablement he entered Cardiff University and then went to Guy's for his clinical studies, qualifying in 1924. Following house appointments in Cardiff he returned to Guy's as an ear, nose and throat registrar and trained under W M Mollison and Lionel Colledge. He was appointed consultant ENT surgeon to the Cardiff Royal Infirmary in 1928 and continued there until his retirement in 1964. He regularly visited the small hospitals in the valleys, providing a much needed service as well as a source of clinical material for the teaching hospital. His particular interest was in malignant disease of the pharynx and larynx. He was President of the Section of Laryngology of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1949, giving his presidential address on post-cricoid cancer and was awarded their Harrison Prize in 1952. In 1961 he was appointed CBE for his services to surgery in Wales.

As a fluent Welsh speaker and passionately interested in all things Welsh he was a senior member of the Gorsedd of the National Eisteddfod, honorary consultant to the Welsh National Opera Company, a member of the National Broadcasting Council and a friend of the National Museum of Wales. He is remembered for his surgical skill, his sympathetic management of patients and his forward-looking approach to life and excellent companionship. To the end of his days he had an abundance of energy and continued shooting and fishing all his life. He married Janet Miles in 1928 and they had two daughters, Jano and Iola of whom one became a nurse and the other a social science graduate. Sadly Janet died soon after his retirement and when he died on 15 October 1988 during a visit to the hydroelectric power station at Llanberis he was survived by his daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1988, 297, 1400-1401; Lancet 1988, 2, 1090; The Times 19 October 1988].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England