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Biographical entry Barron, John Netterville (1911 - 1992)

Hon FRCS 1975; FRCS Ed 1940; MB ChB Otago 1937; Hon MS 1976.

23 December 1911
Napier, New Zealand
Hand surgeon and Plastic surgeon


John Barren was born in Napier, New Zealand on 23 December 191 1. He was educated at Wangunui and Otago where he was a rowing blue and a champion skier, and also attained a civil pilot's licence. He qualified in 1937, was house surgeon at Christchurch Hospital, and then went to Britain for surgical training in 1938. He was resident surgical officer at the Royal Masonic Hospital, later becoming first assistant to Rainsford Mowlem at Hill End, St Albans. He obtained the FRCS Edinburgh in 1940.

Towards the end of the war at the instigation of Winston Churchill the Foreign Office invited him to go to Yugoslavia to provide surgical services for Marshal Tito and his partisans. Afterwards he set up a 120-bed hospital in Belgrade for reconstructive surgery, also training the staff to man it.

In 1946 he returned to England to work with Sir Harold Gillies at Park Prewett, and then as senior lecturer at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, where he researched the blood supply of skin flaps. He was appointed the first Director of the Wessex Regional Plastic and Maxillo-Facial Unit in Odstock in 1949. Soon his travelling and lecturing attracted trainees from all over the world, and established his unit as a national centre.

His main interests were reconstructive surgery and surgery of the hand, and he took a close interest in the disabilities which resulted from injuries of the hand and upper limb. Largely as a result of this interest he co-founded the rehabilitation service for workers at Vauxhall Motors, Luton, in 1942.

A tragic accident which resulted in the loss of an eye ended his surgical career, but gave him time to finish a three-volume textbook on plastic surgery, Operative, plastic and reconstructive surgery (1980).

His services in Yugoslavia were rewarded by Tito with the Yugoslav Flag with Golden Wreath in 1975, followed by the inauguration of the Barron Institute for Plastic Surgery at the University of Ljublana in 1976. He received the Honorary FRCS in 1975 and the Honorary MS of the University of Southampton in 1976. He was three times President of the British Association of Plastic Surgery and was also President of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand.

He was a keen gardener, cordon bleu cook, cabinet-maker and wine-maker. He died at the age of 80, predeceased by his wife Joan, and survived by their son and two daughters.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 20 July 1992; NZ Med J 1992 462].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England