Sir Robert Reynolds Macintosh 1897-1989

He first entered the world of anaesthetics by giving dental anaesthesia. He went on to develop vaporisers and the most well used today of his inventions, the Macintosh curved blade.

He was knighted in 1955 not long before the death of his first wife. He died at Oxford in 1989. 

Robert Macintosh was born at Timaru New Zealand in 1897. Macintosh was baptised with the Maori name, Rewi Rawhiti. He was the youngest son of Charles Nicholson Macintosh, newspaper editor and mayor of Timaru in 1901, and his wife, Lydia Beatrice Thompson.

He spent part of his childhood in Argentina, but returned to New Zealand when he was thirteen years old. He was educated at Waitaki Boys' High School, where he was head of school and excelled academically and athletically.
In December 1915 he travelled to Britain and was commissioned in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, soon transferring to the Royal Flying Corps. He was shot down behind enemy lines on 26 May 1917 and taken prisoner, escaping several times.

When the war ended he returned to medical school and qualified in 1924 as MRCS LRCP.

Sir Robert Macintosh initial intentions was to be a surgeon, but soon after qualifying he developed an interest in the field of anaesthesia. Macintosh became the first professor of anaesthetics at Oxford although the university was at first against the appointment.

It was Lord Nuffield a friend of Macintosh who ensured that he was appointed by withholding funding. He recruited the scientists Dr Kurt Mendelssohn and Dr H G Epstein and together they designed and built the Oxford vaporiser, a simple, portable, and accurate means of delivering varying concentrations of ether,256 which was to see service in the second world war and where more complicated apparatus could only be a liability.

A descendant of the vaporiser was used in the Falklands conflict and gulf wars and is still part of the military's field anaesthetic equipment today.

The common Laryngascope blade is his curved design.



Ken True History of Surgery and Anaesthesia