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Arnold Klopper

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 27 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h367
  1. Janet Fricker, Hemel Hempstead
  1. janet.fricker1{at}

Reproductive endocrinologist and campaigner against apartheid

Arnold Klopper, a gynaecologist and obstetrician in Aberdeen, did much to establish the concept of the fetus and placenta as an endocrine unit through his research and textbooks. Outside medicine Klopper was an ardent socialist who campaigned for nuclear disarmament, yet spent much of his free time game shooting and fishing. Such contradictions of character were undoubtedly influenced by his white Afrikaner childhood and the strike he organised as a medical student at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand in support of black people working as anatomy demonstrators.

“Arnold was an outstanding reproductive endocrinologist before the word was invented,” said Allan Templeton, until recently professor and head of department at the University of Aberdeen. “He had a real desire to help patients and wanted to make a difference to the NHS. Politically his outlook was heavily influenced by his first hand experience of the injustice of the South African situation.”

Klopper’s most important research was undertaken at the Medical Research Council’s clinical endocrinology research unit in Edinburgh, which he joined in 1952. The unit, led by Guy Marrian, was successful in developing methods for accurately measuring metabolites of oestrogen, progesterone, and luteinising hormone in urine. It documented—for the first time—the precise patterns of these hormones throughout the menstrual cycle, and how they related to ovulation and fertility. Klopper was perhaps best known for developing an assay for pregnanediol (a metabolite of progesterone) in urine using the colorimetric method.1 Before fetal ultrasound, assays of pregnandediol were used to determine the wellbeing of the fetus.

Klopper went on to undertake a series …

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