Page 1: Early life and training
Barratt-Boyes, Brian Gerald
Doctor, cardiac surgeon
This biography, written by Jill Wrapson, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2011.
Brian Gerald Boyes was born in Wellington on 13 January 1924, the second of three children of Edna Myrtle Barratt and her husband, Gerald Cave Boyes. Gerald Boyes was an accountant at the Avery Motor Company. He later contracted tuberculosis, and died in 1944.
Brian attended Johnsonville Primary School, and then Wellington College between 1937 and 1940. At high school he won the E. E. Martin Prize for Mathematics, the S. Eichelbaum Prize for Literature and the Sir Alexander Grey Memorial Cup. In 1941 he enrolled for a medical intermediate year at Victoria University College, Wellington, before studying medicine at the University of Otago in Dunedin from 1942. While at Otago, following the wishes of his mother, Brian changed his surname by deed poll to Barratt-Boyes.
Music and religion played important parts in Brian Barratt-Boyes’s early life. He was a soloist in his local Anglican church choir and a member of a Wellington choir directed by conductor and music teacher Harold Temple White. A talented pianist, Brian also enjoyed carpentry, and his skill with his hands may have played a part in his later success as a surgeon. It was through his church connections that he found accommodation for his university years in Dunedin, giving help with Sunday services in recompense for board and lodging, and later becoming a lay preacher.
Early career and marriage
Barratt-Boyes graduated MB, ChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) in 1946, and later qualified ChM, Master of Surgery, in 1962. After gaining his first qualification he was appointed demonstrator in anatomy at Otago Medical School. Subsequently he spent a year as house surgeon at Wellington Hospital.
On 9 November 1949 at Dunedin Barratt-Boyes married Norma Margaret Thomson, a physiotherapist and former student in his anatomy classes at Otago. They were to have five sons.
Introduction to surgery
Barratt-Boyes’s next appointment was as registrar at Palmerston North Hospital, in 1950. He became a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1952, at a time when the majority of New Zealand doctors gained the qualification while undertaking postgraduate training overseas.
David Mitchell was Palmerston North Hospital’s senior surgeon, and it was through his connections with the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the United States that Barratt-Boyes obtained his first overseas fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery, from 1953 to 1955. While working under Mayo surgeon John Kirklin, Barratt-Boyes became interested in heart-lung bypass machines. In 1956, he spent a year in Bristol, England, on a Nuffield Travelling Scholarship, where he had the opportunity to further develop the British-designed Melrose bypass machine.