Dr Robert Milne

26 July 1849 - 8 November 1922

Robert Milne was the fourth son of James Milne (b. 6 Jan 1809 d. 11 Feb 1875), farmer, of South Lasts, Peterculter and Midmar and his wife, Elspet Gordon (d. 3 Apr 1879). He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Marischal College, graduating MB CM (1874) and MD (1886).

For some months he was assistant to Dr Burns Thomson of Edinburgh, with the idea of going as a medical missionary to China. While in Edinburgh, he began to have symptoms which were diagnosed as tuberculosis of the hip-joint. He returned to Midmar, Aberdeenshire, where he was confined to bed for a year. In 1876, while still walking with crutches, he started practicing in Midmar (1876-1880).

In February 1880, he accepted an urgent invitation from Dr TJ Barnardo to come to London to assist with an outbreak of scarlet fever at the Girls' Village Home, Barkingside. In the following May, he became Chief Medical Officer of Dr Barnardo's Homes, continuing until 1919, during which period some 50,000 children passed under his hands for examination and treatment. He is be best remembered for advocating the application of 10 % carbolic oil to the throat during the first few days of the fever, modifying the severity of the attack and rendering isolation unnecessary. Despite his own excellent results in the treatment of scarlet fever and also of measles, today the efficacy of inunction with antiseptic oils must be received with caution.

Three of his children and one of his grandchildren continued with Dr Barnardo's Homes:

  • Dr James Milne (1878-1950), Medical Officer from 1904 to 1944;
  • Surgeon Rear-Admiral Robert Milne (1881-1949), Honorary Consultant Surgeon to Barnardo's;
  • Nurse Mary Milne OBE (1892-1972), a Member of the Council from 1952 to 1969 and Vice-President from 1969;
  • Dr [Robert] Ian Milne (1916-1969), son of the younger Robert, a Member of the Council from 1959, Deputy Chairman from 1962 and later Chairman of the Council.

Author of 'Infectious Diseases (Scarlet Fever, Measles, Diphtheria)', 'The Prevention of Infectious Diseases', 'Plea for the Home Treatment and Prevention of Scarlet Fever', 'The Prevention of Infectious Diseases (Scarlet Fever and Measles)', 'The Treatment and Prevention of Measles', 'Triumph of the Home Treatment and Prevention of Scarlet Fever', 'Measles: Its Treatment and Prevention' and 'The Elimination of Cross Infections';

BMJ Obituary

The Beloved Physicians

Biography prepared from the nomination made to the University of Aberdeen 525 Alumni project.