Robert Farquhar Osborn qualified in medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he submitted a thesis on the eye in 1819. His thesis, Tentamen inaugurale quaedam de sede visus complectens (16 pp), was published in Edinburgh that same year. In August 1827 he was in addition admitted as a surgeon by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He originally came from the island Antigua, in the West Indies, but later came to the Cape Colony and applied for permission to practice as a surgeon in 1828. He settled in Paarl, where the inhabitants supported his appointment as a medical practitioner, and married Dorothea Aling (born 1797) on 18 May 1829.
Ten years later Osborn published a booklet, The mode in which light affects the eye (Cape Town, 1839, 34 pp) which was based on his thesis. He was appointed district sugeon for Worcester in 1842, but died the next year. He was survived by his (second) wife, Helen W. de Waal.