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CONYBEARE, Sir John Josias (1888-1967)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0113 MS-CONYJ
Held at: Royal College of Physicians
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Full title: CONYBEARE, Sir John Josias (1888-1967)
Date(s): 1915-1972
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 box; 5 medals
Name of creator(s): Conybeare | Sir | John Josias | 1888-1967 | Knight | physician


Administrative/Biographical history:

John Josias Conybeare was born on 13 December 1888, in Oxford, the son of Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare, a distinguished Oxford philologist. He was educated first at Rugby School before he went to New College, Oxford. He began by reading classics but subsequently turned to medicine. He was close to qualifying when the First World War broke out. Conybeare left immediately for service in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, where he was already a member of the Territorial Army. He served in France on the Somme, for which he was awarded the Military Cross. Conybeare returned to England in 1916, when a lack of doctors in the Army caused a recall of senior medical students from service. He returned to Guy's Hospital to finish his medical training and graduated MB BS in 1917 and rejoined the Army, this time in the Royal Army Medical Corps, in Mesopotamia.

At the end of the War he returned to Guy's as Medical Registrar. He held a postgraduate fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, and was then appointed Warden of the College at Guy's in 1923. In the following year he obtained his Oxford doctorate. In 1925 he was appointed assistant physician and Sub-Dean of the Medical School, and in 1926 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

In 1929 the first edition of Conybeare's Text-book of Medicine by Various Authors appeared, this proved so popular that a further thirteen editions appeared under his editorship. It was this work, `as in all his writing, that his precise thinking, with Latin clarity and brevity of style, made for a terse, readable text which was widely appreciated' (Munk's Roll, vol. VI, p.112). In 1935 he wrote a Manual of Diabetes, which included a supplement for the use of patients, which was also widely valued at the time. Until 1939, Conybeare built up a wide consulting practice and was the Chief Medical Officer of several insurance companies, becoming President of the Assurance Medical Society in 1937. It is said that doctors and their families constantly sought his opinion, which was `the accolade of the profession' (ibid, p.114). He was at his best at the patient's bedside, teaching medicine to students, where `his shrewd clinical judgement [sic] was rarely at fault' (ibid).

When the Second World War broke out, in 1939, Conybeare was commissioned as Group Captain, having held the post of civilian medical adviser to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in peacetime. He served throughout the War, reaching the rank of Air Vice Marshal and, at the end, was made a Knight of the British Empire (KBE). In 1946 Conybeare returned to Guy's and became Governor.

Conybeare, known as `Cony' to his friends, and `Conny' to his military friends, had many interests. He had a love of music, painting and ecclesiastical architecture. He loved to travel abroad, taking many cruises during the inter-war years, and taking great delight in foreign cuisine. At home he generated a number of social circles, frequently entertaining or dining out, indeed he was a member of many dining clubs. Conybeare played golf with Lord Nuffield, which, it is thought, must have greatly influenced the latter's many benefactions towards medicine, particularly towards Guy's. Even when his health began to diminish in later years he did not modify his lifestyle.

He retired from the active staff of Guy's, as Senior Physician, in 1953 at the age of 65, and was appointed Consulting Physician Emeritus. His associations with the Hospital continued until his death. He died suddenly at his home in St Thomas's Street, near to Guy's, on 6 January 1967 at the age of 78.

Textbook of Medicine by Various Authors, John Josias Conybeare (ed.) (Edinburgh, 1929-)
Manual of Diabetes (1935)


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers and war medals of Sir John Josias Conybeare, 1915-1972. Includes his First World War diary, 1915; Military medals and orders awarded to him during the First and the Second World Wars, including the Military Cross and KBE insignia, 1915-1945; Medical notebook, 1916-24; Lecture notes on the subject of Aviation Medicine, n.d., c.1939-45; and letters from William Neville Mann (1911-2001) to the College offering the medical notebook and lecture notes for the College's archives, 1970-72.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

All requests should be referred to the Archivist

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Diary and medals were donated to the College by Graham H. Greenwell in June 1971; The medical notebook and lecture notes were donated by Dr William Neville Mann, of Guy's Hospital, in August 1970 and March 1972

Allied Materials

Related material:

Reference is made to Conybeare in the College's Autographed Letters Collection (ALS), in letters to Dr Emanuel Libman (1872-1946), 1920-40.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: `Sir John Conybeare, An Appreciation', Guy's Hospital Gazette, 1953, vol. 67, pp.497-500; Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of London, continued to 1975, Gordon Wolstenholme (ed.) (London, 1982) (Munk's Roll, vol. VI, pp.112-14); `Sir John Conybeare', Guy's Hospital Gazette, 1967, vol. 81, No. 2048, pp.23-33
Compiled by Katharine Williams

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
March 2003

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