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Richard William Porter

Former professor of surgery Aberdeen (b 16 February 1935; q Edinburgh 1958), died peacefully at home on 20 July 2005 aged 70.

Professor Richard Porter was a highly influential spinal surgeon, with widespread interests beyond.

The first Sir Harry Platt professor of orthopaedic surgery at Aberdeen University, he held honorary professorships in China and eastern Europe. He was highly innovative and devised several new orthopaedic procedures. The publisher of many books and over 100 peer-reviewed articles, his major research interests were in spine and osteoporosis research. He won international prizes for this work, including the first Volvo Award in 1979 for work on spinal stenosis. He developed commercial machines to measure osteoporosis in old people and pioneered new ways of treating club foot in children. His theories on the causes of scoliosis are receiving increasing acceptance. He was the subject of three television programmes, including the BBC documentary Your Life in their Hands.

He had a passion for education, and was director of education of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh for five years. He supported overseas doctors, especially from China, the Middle East, and eastern Europe, sponsoring their training in the UK.

His books on spine surgery are popular throughout the world, and his contribution to the medico-legal literature has led to widespread respect among solicitors, barristers, and the judiciary.

As a Methodist local preacher he was active in supporting renewal in the church, and wrote a popular novel, Journey to Eden, which encompassed ideas that synthesise biblical and scientific worldviews. He developed an effective aid to one-to-one faith-sharing based on role play, which is used in many church congregations.

In his final years he supported hundreds of Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers, many of whom he helped discover Christian faith, and who viewed him almost as their own father. Through his efforts many genuine people fleeing oppression have been granted asylum.

On 23 August a thanksgiving service was held in Richard’s home town of Doncaster, Yorkshire, where he was born and lived much of his life. Over 350 attended, and his three minister sons and one who is an orthopaedic surgeon led the service, supported by colleagues and friends from across the globe. Richard leaves his wife, Christine, who was his faithful support for over 40 years; four sons; and 11 grandchildren. His epitaph: "Loving husband, father and grandfather, friend to many." [Daniel Porter]