Celebrating South Australia


26 June 1896 Sir Hugh Cairns

 26 June 1896   Sir Hugh Cairns

Hugh Cairns, the son of a building contractor, was born in Port Pirie on 26 June 1896. He went to primary school in the town, and later attended Riverton High School, Adelaide High School and the University of Adelaide, winning scholarships to see him through. He was in his fifth year of medical studies when World War I broke out and he joined the AMC as a private. He served at Gallipoli and at a hospital on the Greek island of Lemnos and then was sent home by the Army to complete his medical training. After graduating he re-enlisted with the rank of Captain.

After the war he was able to take up his Rhodes scholarship to Oxford. He had rowed while at Adelaide and was an Oxford Blue in 1920. In 1925 he became interested in surgery on the central nervous system and studied at Harvard under a leading brain surgeon of the time. He returned to London where he established the first complete department of brain surgery in Great Britain. In 1936 he was selected as the Nuffield Professor of Surgery at Oxford. During World War II he was consultant neuro-surgeon to the British Army with the rank of Brigadier. 

Cairns was knighted in 1946. He visited Adelaide again in 1948 as part of a travelling professorship to Australia and New Zealand. He died in Oxford on 18 July 1952. 

The Advertiser, 21 July 1952, p. 2.