Richard Robinson obituary

Other lives: Professor of paediatric neurology and expert botanist

My friend and colleague Richard Robinson, who has died of a heart attack aged 79, was a doctor known for his compassionate care for children with severe neurological problems. He was loved and respected by his colleagues and trained many paediatric neurologists, who remember him as an excellent teacher. He was also an expert botanist.

Richard was born in Bedford, to Eric Robinson, a teacher, and Beryl (nee Naftel). When he was six, the family moved to St Asaph in north Wales, where he spent much of his time roaming the countryside. During his teenage years, Richard developed a love of climbing and learned to play the french horn to a high standard.

He went as a boarder to Bedford school, where his father had taught, and then to King’s College, Cambridge, to study natural sciences, graduating in 1963. He completed his clinical studies at Guy’s hospital, and worked in clinical and research posts at Hammersmith hospital and Great Ormond St hospital (all in London), at the Nuffield Institute for Medical Research and John Radcliffe hospital, in Oxford, and at University College hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria.

In 1970, while working as a senior house officer at the London Children’s hospital, he wrote a book, Medical Emergencies: Diagnosis and Management, an essential evidence-based guide to acute medical care. It went through six editions and was published in many languages.

He then trained in neurology in Lexington, Kentucky, and in 1980 was appointed as a consultant in paediatric neurology at Guy’s hospital, where he later became head of – and professor of – paediatric neurology. . He was a president of the British Paediatric Neurology Association and secretary general of the European Federation of Childhood Neurological Societies.

Richard undertook research into severe neurological disorders, and championed the use of vagal nerve stimulation in children with refractory epilepsy. He wrote numerous papers in journals and chapters in books.

Richard’s analytical skill was also deployed in his lifelong passion for botany, sparked by his father, who taught Richard and his sister, Anne, to identify plants, sometimes offering “sixpence for a celandine”.

Walking in the countryside with Richard was a joy and an education. He accompanied his identification of plants with anecdotes. How could I now forget how to identify plantain, known by some Native Americans as “white men’s footsteps”, as they were taken to America on the boots of the pilgrim fathers, leaving their traces wherever the immigrants went? In retirement, he became chair of the Hardy Orchid Society and minute secretary of the Botanical Society of the British Isles (now the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland).

Richard was also a keen singer, joining several choral societies while living in London. After retiring in 2007 and moving to Amberley in West Sussex, he started the Amberley Singers. He also trained volunteers in the village to be rapid responders and was involved in a self-help health network during the Covid pandemic.

He is survived by Jenny (nee Morrison), whom he married in 1967, by their four children, Sarah, Tom, Kate and Harry, and four grandchildren, Simeon, Luke, Cassian and Eva, and by Anne.

Robin Stott

The GuardianTramp

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