Dr James Mervyn Barnett Burn

Personal Details 

Dr James Mervyn Barnett Burn

06/05/1930 to 17/08/1996

Place of birth: London

Nationality: British

Education and qualifications

General education

Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham; Bristol University

Primary medical qualification(s)

MBChB, Bristol, 1954

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Examination

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

DObs, RCOG, 1958; DA(RCP&S), 1959

Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

James followed house officer posts in Bristol with National Service in the Royal Navy, serving as medical officer on the frigate HMS Loch Fada, mainly in the Persian Gulf, India and Ceylon, his ship escorting Archbishop Makarios into exile in The Seychelles in 1955. After junior hospital posts in medicine (The Princess Beatrice Hospital, London) and obstetrics (Bristol) he trained in anaesthesia at The Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford and The Westminster and The Brompton Hospitals, both in London. He was appointed a consultant at Southampton University Hospitals in 1965, and retired in 1992.

Professional interests and activities

James possessed extraordinary drive and determination, his clinical skills and contributions to regional anaesthetic and surgical postgraduate day release courses helping to lay the foundations of the Southampton medical facility. The development of the regional neonatal and paediatric unit in 1969 established a fruitful partnership with his surgical colleague, John Atwell, with whom he pioneered day case surgery.

James broadened this approach to adult surgery, writing and lecturing extensively on the subject. His foresight and predictions for its cost effectiveness and the economic effects on hospital bed usage were remarkable, while the political significance of these ideas has also been considerable.

He also developed one of the first weekly pain clinics in Southampton, being a founder member of The Intractable Pain Society, and set up an interim intensive care unit before the new university hospital was built. Other initiatives include encouraging the wider use of epidural analgesia in obstetrics, the initiation of a pre-admission anaesthetic clinic, and setting up a museum of historical anaesthetic apparatus. He served on numerous committees, including AAGBI Council.

Other biographical information

James married Ann in 1964, and was devoted to his family, two sons and a daughter. A keen sailor, he and a colleague, Laurie Langdon, shared a boat the ‘Jala’, an acronym of their Christian names.

Author and sources

Author: Robert Julian Palmer

Sources and any other comments: Pearce D. Obituary. BMJ 5/10/1996, and personal communication with his wife Ann.