BARNETT, Sir Louis Edward, C.M.G.
Professor of surgery and founder of the Australasian College of Surgeons.
A new biography of Barnett, Louis Edward appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Sir Louis was born in Wellington on 24 March 1865, the son of Alfred Barnett, J.P., the fourth of seven children. He was educated at the Sydney Street Primary School in Wellington and at Wellington College where he won, in 1883, a Junior University Scholarship leading to two years at the University of Otago Medical School. He was one of the early students at this school, which had opened in 1877 and was still confining its activities to teaching only the first two years of the medical course. He was taught by such pioneers as Professors John Scott, T. Jeffrey Parker, Lindo Ferguson, and James Black. Barnett then proceeded to Edinburgh University, graduating M.B.C.M. with first-class honours in 1888. He was appointed a house surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital, London, where he worked for two years building up a reputation which led later on to the establishing of a Middlesex Scholarship for the Otago Medical School. In 1890, at the age of 25 years, he gained his F.R.C.S., England. He was the first New Zealander to secure this qualification, the blue riband of British surgery. He returned to New Zealand in 1891 and entered private practice and university teaching. In 1892 he married Mabel Violet Fulton, youngest child of James Fulton, M.L.C., of the Taieri. There were five children.
For the next 33 years he worked and taught in Dunedin, establishing a national reputation for safe and sound surgery. He was the first surgeon in New Zealand to wear rubber gloves and a gauze mask in the operating theatre, an action which for a time was much criticised.
Sir Louis retired in 1925 at the age of 60 and went to live at Hampden, but he continued there his long-term studies on hydatid disease, organised the Australasian College of Surgeons, and promoted the growth of the Otago branch of the British Empire Cancer Campaign. He was knighted in 1927 and died on 28 October 1946.
Sir Louis had wide interests in the university and the community. He was a most generous benefactor, establishing the Ralph Barnett Chair of Surgery in memory of a son killed in action in 1917 in the course of the First World War, and he also gave liberally to the Medical Library and towards the purchase of a university sports field. He was a most kindly, cheery, humble person, with a deeply ingrained love of humanity.
by Charles Ernest Hercus, KT., D.S.O., O.B.E., U.D., M.B. CH.B.(N.Z.), M.D., D.P.H., B.D.S., F.R.C.P., F.R.A.C.P., F.R.A.C.S., Emeritus Professor, University of Otago.
- Otago Daily Times, 29 Oct 1946 (Obit.).