Burn was MOH for Salford from 1941-1969. He took a medical degree from Durham University in 1931, and later a MD and DPH. In 1937 he became MOH for Barnsley, where he remained until he moved to Salford. Burn make a considerable impact in many areas of public health in Salford, including atmospheric pollution and slum clearance, both major issues in that city. He was also active in the field of preventive medicine, and was an active campaigner against smoking and alcohol abuse. He developed mental health clinics in Salford, introduced free medical checks for the and made greater use of nursing staff in medical practices. In 1955, Burn established the Salford Health Services Council, which co-ordinated the work of GPs, hospitals and the local authority. Burn lectured on public health at the University of Manchester for many years. After retiring as MOH, he set up in general practice.