Ferdinand Hillman

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 10 April 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:839
  1. Martin Hillman

    Born in Vienna, Ferry, as he was always known in English, was forced to abandon his medical studies at the university there by the rise of Nazism. He lived for several years in France, joining the Foreign Legion at the outbreak of the second world war. He joined the British Army after the allied landings in North Africa, serving in the Pioneer Corps and then in intelligence roles, at one stage being trained to be parachuted into enemy territory to coordinate internal resistance.

    Queen’s University, Belfast, gave him credit for prewar studies, and he qualified there before working at the city’s Royal Victoria Hospital, choosing to specialise in pathology. He worked at Lancaster Royal Infirmary before becoming a consultant pathologist at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan, working also in Wrightington and other local hospitals. His wide range of roles at Wigan included pivotal work in setting up anticoagulant clinics, and he collaborated with John Charnley, the hip prosthetics pioneer, in anticoagulant studies at Wrightington.

    He was a founder member of the British Society for Clinical Cytology. He took to finding locum posts in Canada during his summer holidays—as he said in one locum application, he was “happiest in the thick of it [work].” He retired in 1979 but took temporary placements in a succession of hospitals until NHS rules forced him to give up altogether at 70. He was particularly associated with Ormskirk Hospital, not far from Wigan, and continued to take an interest in the hospital and its educational programme long after stopping work. He never did any work in private practice.

    A fellow of the Manchester Medical Society for 51 years, he was made a life fellow in 1992. A member of a number of other medical societies in north west England, he also belonged to Wigan Rotary Club. A skier since his youth, he must have been among the earliest UK winter sports enthusiasts, taking an annual week or two in the Alps from the 1950s until 2007. He was over-80s downhill champion at Wengen several times, though he gave up skiing in the last few years. His other interests were extremely wide. He was an inveterate hillwalker, and had a caravan in the Lake District for several decades. He played tennis, and took up sailing in the 1960s—the caravan was within a few hundred yards of Coniston Sailing Club—and in the 1990s was still going for sailing holidays. Long into retirement, he continued to take cycling trips in France and Ireland. At various times he took up wood turning, angling, and clay-pigeon shooting. His homemade wine was for years a well known part of his hospitality.

    His curiosity was insatiable. Among his papers were the results of a brief research project on the mathematics of sundials and a correspondence about the intriguing explosive effects of cooking cods’ roe in a microwave oven. In addition to German, French, and English, he spoke reasonable Italian, and his preparation for holidays reveals itself in the manuals of Serbo-Croat, Greek, Turkish, and Czech on his bookshelves.

    His wife, Mary, died in 1984. He leaves a son, a daughter, and a grandson.


    • Former consultant pathologist Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, Wigan (b 1914; q Queen’s University, Belfast, 1950; DObstRCOG, FRCPI, FRCPath), d 22 January 2008.

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