Intended for healthcare professionals


Kurt Michael Laurence

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 20 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l1208
  1. Stephen Laurence

Enigmatic and occasionally difficult, Kurt Michael Laurence survived a traumatic early childhood and adulthood to become a much respected professor who contributed to greatly reducing the risk of babies being born with spina bifida and other malformations in the UK

Kurt Michael Laurence was born Kurt Michael Loebenstein in Berlin, Germany. His mother, Grete, trained at the Bauhaus School of Arts and in 1923 started a ceramics factory committed to progressive design. Her husband and her other child had died in separate accidents, and by 1936 she realised she must leave Germany. Aware that both mother and child leaving the country together would arouse Nazi suspicions, Grete told Michael (then aged 11) to make his own way to England via Holland. Once reunited, they moved to Newcastle, then Stoke on Trent.

Michael then went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1943, to study medical sciences, where he met his future wife, Rose Settle; they married in 1949. He continued the clinical part of his medical training in Liverpool and qualified in 1950. However, he contracted tuberculosis the following year and spent a year as a patient in hospital and sanatorium care.

Once out of sanatorium, he found many branches of medicine were too physically demanding, so he considered a career in pathology. He worked first in …

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