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Biographical entry Cobbett, John Robey (1930 - 2016)

MRCS LRCP 1954; MB BChir Cambridge 1956; FRCS 1962.

5 May 1930
18 January 2016
Hand surgeon, Plastic surgeon and Reconstructive surgeon


John Robey Cobbett was a consultant plastic surgeon at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, and Lewisham Hospital. He was born on 5 May 1930, the third son of Claude Racster Cobbett, a company director, and Constance Evelyn Anne Cobbett née Robey. From the age of four, following the death of his mother, his step-mother steered him into medicine. While she was not qualified herself, her father and three of her siblings were doctors. He attended Charterhouse School, where he won prizes in physics and chemistry, and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. His clinical studies were undertaken at the London Hospital.

He was a house surgeon at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, where he saw the work being done by Sir Archibald McIndoe and was inspired to become a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. He trained in general surgery with Sir Alan Parks at the Royal Free Hospital, gaining his FRCS in 1962, and then returned to East Grinstead as a senior registrar in plastic surgery. He was appointed as a consultant plastic surgeon at East Grinstead and Lewisham in 1968.

As part of the research programme at East Grinstead, John Cobbett became interested in the techniques of small vessel anastomosis. He won a Moynihan travelling scholarship in 1966, which enabled him to visit other units around the world with similar interests. He is credited as being one of the first to have completed a single stage microvascular transfer of a great toe to reconstruct a thumb in 1968.

He was a founder member of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand. He served on the council of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons from 1975 to 1977, and was honorary secretary, also from 1975 to 1977.

John married Pamela Irma Bower in 1952 and they had three children, Peter John Robey, Susan Robey and David Charles Robey, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He retired in 1995 to enjoy his hobbies of boat building, carpentry and jewellery making. Sadly, he developed Pick's disease in 2005.

John Cobbett died on 19 January 2016, at the age of 85.

Roger Green

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2016 352 898].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England