Intended for healthcare professionals


Jerry Kirk: surgery professor, author, and widely respected figure in surgical education

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 13 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m607
  1. Penny Warren
  1. London, UK
  1. penny.warren{at}


For generations of trainee surgeons, buying a copy of Jerry Kirk’s Basic Surgical Techniques or General Surgical Operations was a rite of passage.

Kirk was a professor of surgery at the Royal Free Hospital in London, and, as a colleague said, “surgical education was his being.” He was a shrewd and generous mentor, believing it a privilege to pass on his skills and encourage trainees, whether in person or through his prose.

A very precise surgeon with high standards, he had learnt from greats such as Ian Aird and Norman Tanner, but was unhappy with the shortcomings of operative textbooks that he said did not tackle the hazards and difficulties of surgical procedures. He started writing practical “how-to” titles for trainee surgeons, beginning with A Manual of Abdominal Operations, which was published in 1967. His bestselling Basic Surgical Techniques followed in 1973 and General Surgical Operations in 1978.

Kirk wrote and edited texts into his 90s. He was a hard worker, always at his computer, …

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