Martin Avigdor Birnstingl

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 06 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6445
  1. John Lumley

Martin Avigdor Birnstingl was one of the most respected surgeons of his generation, but few knew or shared his amazingly complex and multifaceted existence. He was a skilled surgeon, president of the Vascular Surgical Society, author, inspired teacher, and an enthusiastic sailor, walker, and skier. He was also multilingual and a talented musician with an immense knowledge of literature and passionate views on human rights, which frequently brought him into conflict with governments. But above all he was a deeply thoughtful and caring doctor and friend.

Martin was born of musical, Fabian orientated parents, his father being a master printer and his mother a painter. At school he acquired a lifelong interest in ornithology, which, over the course of many years, led to a vast knowledge of birds, worldwide. He loved biology and by extension medicine, going from Bedales to Barts to qualify as a doctor. He served as a captain of the Royal Army Medical Corps in East Africa and Mauritius (where he had a pet parrot).

He returned to the Barts surgical unit under Sir James Patterson Ross, and his interest in vascular surgery developed out of the surgical traditions of Barts at that time. In 1952 a visiting American fellow, Jack Connolly, …

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