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Biographical entry Keon-Cohen, Bryan Tobin (1903 - 1974)

MRCS and FRCS 1933; MB BS Melbourne 1927; FRACS 1938.

1 June 1903
24 February 1974
Orthopaedic surgeon


Bryan Tobin Keon-Cohen was born on 1 June 1903, the second son of the Honorable Henry Isaac Cohen, KC, and of Ethel Mary Cohen, a concert pianist. He claimed to be the only renegade from an entirely legal family and was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, and then Trinity College in the University of Melbourne where he was a rowing blue. He graduated with first class honours and was appointed resident medical officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital where he was house surgeon to Sir Alan Newton. He also spent a year in the pathology school and gained the Beaney Scholarship in pathology. He came to England in 1932 and worked at the Royal Free Hospital for six months as a casualty officer and then as RMO for a further year. After passing the FRCS in 1933, a vital four years was spent as RMO at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital, Oswestry, where he worked with Harry Platt, Watson-Jones, Naughton Dunn and Henry Osmond-Clarke. He married Jessie Firth, a physiotherapist, in 1938. In the same year they returned to Melbourne and he completed the FRACS.

After the outbreak of the second world war he enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps in 1940 and served first in the Middle East with the 2/7 Australian General Hospital. He returned to Australia in 1943 and then went to New Guinea with the same hospital before appointment as orthopaedic surgeon to Heidelberg Military Hospital. In the last nine months of the war he was seconded to Britain, the USA and Canada to study the subject of artificial limbs. He was then demobilised as a Major, but later, in 1956, he was appointed consultant orthopaedist to the three armed services with the rank of Colonel.

Shortly after the war he was appointed honorary orthopaedic surgeon to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, succeeding his old chief C W B Littlejohn, CBE, and in the following years contributed many articles to the Journal of bone and joint surgery as well as other medical journals. He was an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and of the British Orthopaedic Association; an honorary member of both the Canadian and the Australian Orthopaedic Associations, and a corresponding member of the American Orthopaedic Association.

He served on the Court of Examiners of the Australasian College of Surgeons from 1950, became a member of Council in 1959, Censor-in-Chief, 1967-68, and Vice-President in 1969; but valued most highly his election to Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of that college in 1972, in recognition of all his support for the faculty in its formative years. Keon-Cohen was a man of notable integrity, deeply devoted to orthopaedics and had a wide circle of friends in his specialty. He was President of the Australian Orthopaedic Association in 1963 and delivered the R L Harris Memorial Lecture in 1970. He had a happy family life with two sons, both of whom were also rowing blues at Melbourne, and a daughter. He was ill for the last seven years of his life and spent 19 months confined to bed during which period he wrote Things - and other things, a delightful little book of anecdote, humour and orthopaedic wisdom. When he died on 24 February 1974, aged 70, he was survived by his wife and their three children.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Aust NZ J surg 1974, 44, 199-203; Med J Aust 1975, 1, 119-120].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England