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Biographical entry Sorsby, Arnold (1900 - 1980)

CBE 1966; MRCS 1925; FRCS 1928; MB, ChB Leeds 1921; MD 1929; FRCS Ed 1928; LRCP 1925.

10 June 1900
Bialystock, Poland
6 May 1980
Ophthalmic surgeon


Arnold Sorsby achieved national and international distinction as an ophthalmologist. He was a gentle, gracious and skilful surgeon, a man of great intellectual ability as shown in his works on genetics, blindness, medical history and as a poetry anthologist. He was a person of considerable charm, with a quiet but often disconcerting wit.

He was of emigré stock, being born in Poland (Bialystock) on 10 June 1900, a son of Jacob Sourasky and his wife Elka (Slomiansky). His surname was changed by deed poll about 1930 to Sorsby. After attending a community school in Antwerp his education continued at the Central High School, Leeds, and Leeds University. He became ophthalmic surgeon to the London Jewish Hospital, the Hampstead General Hospital and the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases. From 1931 to 1966 he was surgeon to the Royal Eye Hospital and Dean of its medical school, 1934-1938. From 1943 to 1966 he was Research Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal Eye Hospital, becoming Emeritus Professor on retirement. He was a Hunterian Professor of the College in the years 1934 and 1942 and was awarded the Sir Arthur Keith Medal for his services to the College in 1966, the same year of his appointment as CBE in respect of his national and international service to ophthalmology. He was renowned for his work for the WHO advisory panel on trachoma, the International Organisation against Trachoma and the International Association for the Prevention of Blindness. He was also director of the Wernher Research Unit on Ophthalmological Genetics (MRC), consultant advisor, Ministry of Health, 1966-72, and editor of the Journal of medical genetics, 1964-69. He also edited the textbook Modern ophthalmology and was author of Ophthalmic genetics (1951), Clinical genetics (1953), A short history of ophthalmology (1933), Medicine and mankind (1950) and Tenements of clay (1974), which received wide acclaim.

He married Charmaine (Guiness) in 1943 and she predeceased him by a few days. There were no children. He died on 6 May 1980, aged 79.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1980, 1, 1274, 1381; Lancet 1980, 1, 1259; The Times 16 May 1980].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England