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Biographical entry Steiner, Robert Emil (1918 - 2013)

CBE 1979; MB BCh BAO Dublin 1941; DMR Eng 1945; FFR 1952; MD 1957; MRCP 1959; Hon FACR 1965; FRCP 1965; Hon FRACR 1971; Hon FFR RCSI 1972; FRCR 1975.

1 February 1918
12 September 2013


Robert Steiner was professor of diagnostic radiology at the University of London, and the outstanding British radiologist of the second half of the 20th century. Born in Prague, the son of Rudolf Maxmilian Steiner, a banker, and Clary Steiner née Nordlinger, he was forced to leave his studies at the University of Vienna and emigrate to Ireland. He studied medicine in Dublin, and qualified in 1941.

He then held a series of junior posts in the Emergency Medical Service, including at Macclesfield and at Winwick, where he was a registrar in surgery. From 1943 he was a registrar and then senior registrar at Sheffield Royal Infirmary.

In 1950 he joined the staff of Hammersmith Hospital, London, as a lecturer and honorary consultant, eventually becoming professor of diagnostic radiology. At Hammersmith he completely revolutionised the radiology department, making it the envy of the world, although at that time this success was based on the skills and aptitudes of the staff and Robert's inspired leadership, rather than the technical facilities. The department was later described by the British Medical Journal as a 'beacon light' in British radiology, where service to patients, teaching and research were of equal importance. Fame of this unique endeavour spread rapidly, attracting enthusiastic trainees in radiology, as well as many visitors from abroad.

In the department he pioneered clinical-radiological meetings, where clinicians would start their day in the radiology department before seeing their patients. These were the forerunners of the now prevalent multidisciplinary meetings.

His own research work was mainly related to the cardiovascular system. Angiography was one of the rapidly developing subspecialties at the time and teamwork was essential in the days of spring-loaded cassettes and wet film processing. Needless to say, Robert extracted 110% from each and every member of staff by means of his own infectious enthusiasm.

His publications were prodigious and his educational contribution was immense. He published well over 200 medical papers and books. The Recent advances in radiology (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone) volumes, which he edited, were essential reading in the 1970s and 1980s. His book Clinical disorders of the pulmonary circulation (London, J & A Churchill, 1960), written with R Daley and John F Goodwin, still makes good reading today. As editor of the British Journal of Radiology he had great insight into what was going on in other areas within radiology.

He was awarded many honours, including gold medals from the Royal College of Radiologists and the European Society of Radiology. He was president of the British Institute of Radiology from 1972 to 1973, and warden and then president of the Royal College of Radiologists from 1977 to 1980.

Even after his retirement (in 1983) he continued to be active, in the new discipline of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), at the Hammersmith Centre named after him. The pioneering Hammersmith contributions to magnetic resonance imaging gave him immense and very justifiable pride.

Robert Steiner was, quite simply, the outstanding British academic radiologist of his era, who was responsible for developing the careers of hundreds of radiologists. Partly because of his own European roots and partly due to his love for disseminating good practice, he was extremely supportive to visitors from home and abroad and his antennae embraced the entire radiological world. He changed radiology very much for the good.

He was survived by his wife, Gertrude Margaret (née Konirsch) and their two daughters.

Thomas Sherwood
Adrian Dixon

Sources used to compile this entry: [Eur Radiol 2013 Nov 20; 2013 347 6888; Republished by kind permission of The Royal College of Physicians from The Lives of the Fellows (].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England