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Robert Jones (1857-1933)

Originally from Wales, Robert Jones was brought up in London, where he studied medicine. He became an orthopaedic surgeon whose work was crucial in the rehabilitation of British soldiers.

Part of a military surgeon’s job is to repair soldiers and return them to combat. Robert Jones excelled at this task. As 65% of all casualties during the First World War (1914-18) were caused by injuries to bones from shrapnel and gunshot wounds, there was a lot of work for orthopaedic surgeons, who specialised in problems of the skeleton. Initially services for the wounded were very poor and disorganised.

Jones was director of military orthopaedics from 1916. He directed 20 military orthopaedic hospitals which rehabilitated many injured soldiers. At one hospital, Shepherd’s Bush in London, Jones oversaw the return of 1000 out of 1300 injured soldiers to the fighting. He advocated the use of the Thomas splint, devised by his uncle Hugh Owen Thomas, which reduced deaths caused by compound fracture from 80% to 20%. He also established a system of rehabilitation where soldiers were not immediately discharged if they were injured. Instead they were retrained to see if they could be made fit enough to fight again. After the war Jones switched his attention to children and campaigned for better care for fractures and other orthopaedic problems.

 

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Orthopaedics

The branch of medicine concerned with the preservation and restoration of the muscular and skeletal systems in the body.