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Otto Gerhard Prokop

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 01 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2219
  1. Ned Stafford

    Forensic scientist who left West Germany during the cold war to work in East Berlin

    There was something different about Professor Otto Prokop. In 1960, when he lectured students in forensic medicine, Berlin’s Charité medical school was in the communist eastern half of Berlin. Many East German scientists were fleeing to West Germany and beyond, but Prokop had moved three years before from West Germany to lead Charité’s Forensic Medicine Institute.

    Prokop was not yet 40 years old but already considered one of Europe’s top forensic scientists. He was an exotic sight in bleak and grey East Berlin, dressed in a well tailored business suit, with trademark bow tie, and he had a thick Austrian dialect.

    “He was different,” recalls Gunther Geserick, at the time a 22 year old medical student. “His lectures were fantastic. He was witty, lively, energetic. We were amazed at his encyclopedic knowledge. He was a master of Latin quotations and Greek mythology. His ideas were so original. I was enthralled.”

    So enthralled that the young Geserick, who had been aiming towards surgery, switched to forensic medicine. Two years later he joined the institute, becoming Prokop’s protégé and then deputy director until Prokop retired in 1987.

    Mythical status

    During his three decades in East Berlin, Prokop achieved almost …

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