Bowlby, Sir Anthony Alfred, first baronet 1855-1929, surgeon, was born at Namur 10 May 1855, the third son of Thomas William Bowlby [qv.], who was then in Belgium acting as correspondent of The Times, by his wife, Frances Marion, youngest daughter of Pulteney Mein, formerly surgeon in the 73rd Regiment, of Canonbie, Dumfriesshire.
Anthony Bowlby was educated at Durham School, and entered St. Bartholomew's Hospital in October 1876. He won the Brackenbury scholarship in surgery in 1880, and served as house-surgeon to Luther Holden and (Sir) Thomas Smith in 1881. Here also he filled in succession the offices of curator of the museum (1881-1884); surgical registrar (1884-1891); assistant surgeon (1891-1903); surgeon (1903-1920), and consulting surgeon (1919). In addition he acted as surgeon to the Alexandra Hospital for Diseases of the Hip in Queen Square, Bloomsbury (1885-1918), and as surgeon to the Foundling Hospital. At the Royal College of Surgeons of England Bowlby was admitted a member (1879) and a fellow (1881); he was a member of council (1904-1920); president, in succession to Sir George Makins (1920-1923), and Hunterian trustee (1925). He delivered the Bradshaw lecture in 1915, and was Hunterian orator in 1919.
When the South African War broke out in 1899 Bowlby went out as senior surgeon in charge of the Portland Hospital stationed first at Rondebosch and later at Bloemfontein; was mentioned in dispatches; and was invested with the C.M.G. in 1901. He accepted in 1908 a commission as major in the newly formed Territorial medical service, and on the outbreak of the European War in 1914 was called up with the First London General Hospital (Territorial Force). He served for a few days, and then offered his services to the War Office. These were accepted, and he was sent to France on 23 September 1914 as consulting surgeon to the British Expeditionary Force with the rank of colonel. He was appointed consulting surgeon to the Second Army (May 1915), and was afterwards general adviser to the director-general, Army Medical Service, and finally advisory consulting surgeon to the whole of the British forces in France, with the temporary rank of major-general. In these various positions Bowlby did excellent work. He insisted that more surgery should be done at the front, less at the base. He was thus instrumental in revolutionizing the practice of all former wars, and hospitals fully equipped with nurses and orderlies were established within four to six miles of the actual fighting line. His personality, also, did much to ensure harmonious co-operation between the civil and military medical officers.
Bowlby did not resume active practice at the end of the War, but he did much good work as a member of the executive committee of the British Red Cross Society and as chairman of the Radium Institute. In 1904 he had been appointed surgeon to the household of King Edward VII, and in 1910 gazetted surgeon-in-ordinary to King George V. He was knighted in 1911, and created K.C.M.G. (1915), K.C.V.O. (1916), K.C.B. (1919), and a baronet (1923). He married in 1898 Maria Bridget, eldest daughter of the Rev. the Hon. Hugh Wynne Mostyn, rector of Buckworth, Huntingdonshire, and honorary canon of Ely Cathedral. She survived him together with their three sons and three daughters. He died after a few days' illness whilst on a holiday at Stoney Cross, near Lyndhurst, 7 April 1929, and his body was cremated at Brookwood. He was succeeded as second baronet by his eldest son, Anthony Hugh Mostyn (born 1906).
Bowlby was a clear thinker and a dogmatic teacher; a first-rate organizer and a fine administrator. He had a genius for friendship and was extremely popular with students. Educated in the days before the value of Lister's work was recognized in London and without any training in science, he never excelled as a modern operating surgeon, but his large experience and his absolute honesty of purpose made him valuable as a consultant. His writings include Wounds and other Injuries of Nerves (Jacksonian prize essay), 1882; Injuries and Diseases of the Nerves and their Surgical Treatment (Astley Cooper prize essay 1886), 1889; a useful work on Surgical Pathology and Morbid Anatomy (1887, 7th ed. 1920), and he was joint editor with Sir William Grant Macpherson and others of Medical Services: Surgery of the War, 2 vols., 1922 (History of the Great War based on official documents).
A three-quarter length portrait in oils of Bowlby by Sir William Llewellyn, representing him in the uniform of a major-general, Army Medical Service, hangs in the great hall of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He figures in a portrait-group by Moussa Ayoub of the council of the Royal College of Surgeons of England which hangs in the hall of the College in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Near it is a tablet, presented as a token of their esteem, by medical officers of the American Expeditionary Force who served with Bowlby in France. Bowlby's portrait is also included in the lower panel of the painting in the Royal Exchange by Frank O. Salisbury, representing King George V and Queen Mary visiting the battle-areas of France in 1917.
V. G. Plarr, Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 2 vols., revised by Sir D'A. Power and others, 1930
W. Girling Ball in St. Bartholomew's Hospital Reports, vol. lxiii, 1930 (containing a complete list of Bowlby's writings and an excellent portrait)
Contributor: D'A. Power.