Benjamin Barling was born in London and educated at University College School, Repton, and University College Hospital. He qualified with the Conjoint in 1926 and took his MB BS the following year. He proceeded MD in 1929 and became a Fellow of the College in 1945. After several house appointments, including those of house physician and house surgeon at the West London Hospital, he was appointed physician to St Mary’s Hospital, Islington. From there he was transferred to the Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, under Sir Francis Fraser. One of his duties was to take Sir Frederick Menzies round the hospital each Sunday. In 1936 he was appointed physician and deputy superintendent at St Mary Abbot’s Hospital. During his time there he organized weekly ward rounds for the local general practitioners as well a postgraduate courses for MD and MRCP students. He was appointed consultant physician to St James’s Hospital in 1943, where he worked until his retirement. He served on many committees and was made the College’s adviser on postgraduate education to the Postgraduate Medical Federation. He was a member of the Action and Uses Sub-committee of the British Pharmaceutical Codex and an honorary member of the Guild of Hospital Pharmacists. After his retirement in 1967 he began private consulting practice in Harley Street and at his home, as well as acting as consultant to the Ministry of Pensions.
His wife predeceased him and they had no children. It was typical of him that on her death he initiated a nurses prize in her name at St James’s Hospital, not for knowledge or professional ability but for kindness.
Benjy Barling was above all known as the doctors’ physician. He had great sympathy and feeling for all with whom he came into contact and made himself available without complaint to the many calls for help from friends, colleagues, and nursing and administrative staff. Indeed, he would often emphasize that one’s approach to a patient was as important as technical ability, since the patient could always appreciate the former if not the latter.
He had to battle with rheumatic heart disease all his professional life and although he was much helped by a cardiac operation in 1962 he did not survive a very major operation at a time when he had become a cardiac cripple. He was a small man who will leave a large void in the lives of his friends and patients. His hobbies were oil painting, at which he excelled, and an occasional game of bridge. He had a fine sense of humour which did not diminish with increasing cardiac pain and his necessarily restricted life.
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
[Brit.med.J., 1973, 2, 247; Lancet, 1973, 1, 949]