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Professor Louis Solomon, 1928-2014

Professor Louis Solomon

10 November 2014

Louis Solomon, former Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, died in August. Emeritus Professor Ian Learmonth and Professor Ashley Blom offer a tribute.

Professor Louis Solomon passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack on 19 August 2014 in the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

Louis grew up in Keimoes, a tiny village in what is now the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. His parents were both of Jewish Russian descent, his father from Ireland and his mother a Glaswegian lady who instilled in him a lifelong love of art and literature.

In 1941 he and his brother Nols were sent to boarding school in Cape Town. He excelled academically and won a scholarship to study medicine in Cape Town. Whilst still a medical student he met and married Joan, who was his constant companion for the next 66 years.

He chose to work as a houseman in Cape Town, and then in Baragwanath Hospital (a hospital for non-White people in those dark days of Apartheid). Three eventful years as a GP in a remote rural area followed. Louis would frequently be both the anaesthetist and surgeon in the same case. Following the death of the daughter of a friend from an ether anaesthetic, Louis bought the first anaesthetic machine for his local hospital and trained fellow GPs in how to give safe anaesthesia.

He elected to train as an orthopaedic surgeon, first at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, and then at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, working with Otto Aufranc.

On returning to South Africa he joined the faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand and was appointed the third professor and head of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery before his 40th birthday.

His many notable achievements and awards included the Robert Jones Medal from the British Orthopaedic Association in 1966.

After a distinguished career in South Africa, he took up the inaugural Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery at Bristol, from which he retired in 1994.

Louis is probably best known for his longstanding and fruitful collaboration with Alan Apley. Together they edited one of the most influential textbooks of orthopaedic surgery, and after Alan’s death, Louis took the textbook from strength to strength, with over 20,000 copies of the latest edition sold. Earlier this year Louis ensured a transition to a new editorial team who have renamed the textbook Apley and Solomon’s System of Orthopaedics, in fitting tribute to a magnificent duo.

Professor Solomon had an encyclopaedic knowledge of orthopaedic surgery and was an inspirational teacher. His influence is perhaps best captured in the words of one of his distinguished protégés, Dr Anthony Hedley, who noted: ‘My mentor had an amazingly fertile mind, and not only was he intellectually superior, but he was also able to embrace all of the ideas emanating from the young minds around him, and to capitalise on them and to nurture them. Some of the happiest years of my life were spent under his tutelage.’ High praise indeed, but richly deserved!

We shall all miss Louis, and our thoughts go out to Joan and his family.


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