Born in New Zealand, Robert Reynolds Macintosh came to Britain in World War I and served as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. He qualified from Guy’s Hospital in 1924 and became a partner in a private anaesthetic practice in London.
Macintosh’s priorities for anaesthesia were incorporating basic sciences, formal clinical training and the encouragement of research. He selected the best people for these tasks and provided the support and environment they needed. He was appointed Nuffield Professor of Anaesthetics in Oxford in 1937 at Lord Nuffield’s insistence but against the University’s wishes, for at that time anaesthetics lacked academic credentials. Doctors worldwide came to Oxford to learn or work, often later becoming leaders in the field. Simple, safe and practical solutions were taught.
During the Second World War, Macintosh was adviser in anaesthetics to both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and, early in the war, carried out tests on life-jackets with Edgar Pask. In the post-war period he was particularly interested in anaesthesia in developing countries and travelled extensively, demonstrating the principles of modern anaesthesia. The year after celebrating his 90th birthday, he fell while exercising his dog and died from head injuries.