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Biographical entry McRae, Ronald Kenneth (1927 - 2012)

MB ChB Glasgow 1949; FRCS 1960; FRCS Glasg 1984.

27 May 1927
17 April 2012
Orthopaedic surgeon


Ronald ('Ron') McRae was an orthopaedic surgeon in Glasgow. He was born and bred in Ayrshire. His father, Kenneth McRae, was a policeman in the small town of Maybole. His mother, Annabella Robina McRae née Elder, had been a governess. Ron was educated at the local grammar school, Carrick Academy. After a distinguished career there, he went on to study medicine at the University of Glasgow, qualifying in 1949.

After his pre-registration posts, he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force and spent much of his service career in the RAF Hospital, Ely, where he developed his interest in orthopaedic surgery. His specialty training continued when he returned to civilian practice in the Glasgow teaching hospitals, and he gained a consultant appointment at the Southern General Hospital in that city. Thereafter, he practised as a general trauma and orthopaedic surgeon until his retirement.

His main contribution to the specialty was as a teacher. He had shown early promise in this field while still a registrar, and his teaching sessions were always enlivened by his own illustrations and perspex models. He made one of the first surgical simulators for nailing femoral neck fractures. In addition to his post as an honorary clinical lecturer to the University of Glasgow, he was appointed as a lecturer in anatomy to the Glasgow School of Chiropody. In both these roles he prepared an extensive series of handout notes and pen and ink drawings, which were much valued by the students. Inevitably these were expanded and formed the basis of a series of textbooks. The first of these was Clinical orthopaedic examination (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone), containing some 600 illustrations, all of which were hand-drawn by the author. This immense labour has proved of lasting benefit to the medical professions, and the book has remained in print, presently in its fifth edition. It has been translated into six or seven languages and is in use throughout the world. It was followed by Practical fracture treatment (Churchill Livingstone), which appeared in the same largely graphic format, later Practical orthopaedic exposures (Churchill Livingstone), and finally a Pocketbook of orthopaedics and fractures (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone). This body of work, almost entirely by his own hand, will remain a lasting legacy of a gifted surgeon and born teacher.

He was also a talented engineer and made many of his surgical instruments in his own workshop. His skills were such that he was able to construct his own milling-grinding machine and other workshop essentials. As if that was not enough, he was an accomplished artist in both oils and watercolours, and an expert photographer and film-maker.

He was a fellow of the British Orthopaedic Association and served for many years on that organisation's education committee. He was a founding member of the Institute of Medical Illustrators.

He died on 17 April 2012 after a long illness at the age of 85, and was survived by his wife Helen (née MacKinnon), their son Torquil and daughters Jane and Suzanne.

Stewart W McCreath

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Herald 23 April 2012].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England