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Biographical entry Caiger, George Herbert (1896 - 1983)

MRCS 1923; FRCS 1925; MB BCh Cambridge 1924; LRCP 1923.

26 April 1896
Jacobstal, Orange Free State, South Africa
16 April 1983
ENT surgeon


George Caiger was born on 26 April 1896, at Jacobstal, Orange Free State. His father, Herbert Caiger, FRCS, had been an ophthalmic surgeon in the UK and was practising in Burghersdorp. George was the eldest child of Herbert and his wife Mary Jane, nee Heritage. He grew up in Burghersdorp, and went to school there at the Albert Academy and then to Dale College, King Williamstown, both in Cape Colony. He won the gold medal and matriculated in 1912.

The family came to England in 1913, when George went to Felstead School, Essex, for a year for post-matriculation studies. He went up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, to read medicine in 1914, but gave up in 1915 to join the Royal Field Artillery. He served as a Lieutenant until he was wounded in May 1918 with severe damage to ear drums and was invalided back to England. On demobilisation in 1919 he returned to Cambridge and from there went on to St Bartholomew's Hospital. He qualified with the Conjoint Diploma in 1923 and graduated from Cambridge in 1924. He held several junior hospital posts until he took the FRCS in 1925. He was specially influenced at Bart's by G E Gask, Thomas Dunhill and R Foster Moore. He remained in England until 1928, in private practice at Hastings and St Leonards.

On returning to South Africa he settled in private practice in Grahamstown. His own war disability inclined him towards ear, nose and throat work and between 1935 and 1937 he toured Europe studying at clinics in London, Vienna and Berlin. On his return he worked in Port Elizabeth for a while but decided the next year to move to Durban, where he remained. He first went into private practice in partnership for a year, but then single-handed built up a large successful practice. At the same time he showed his dedicated Christian principles by working "pro Deo" in ENT surgery at St Aidan's Indian Hospital and the McCord Zulu Hospital, in the latter until only a few months before his death. He was also ENT consultant at the Addington Hospital.

Caiger was also active as a committee member of various public bodies, such as the Durban branch of the Missions to Seamen, Durban Rotary Club, the Young Men's Christian Association of Durban and the Board of Trustees of the Albany Museum in Grahamstown. He was chairman of the Durban European and African Joint Council, 1942-43, and chairman and founder of the Durban European and African International Club in 1942. This became defunct in 1948, due to legislation. He was a church warden of St George's Cathedral in Grahamstown and of several other churches and was a lay representative on the Diocesan Synod for a number of years. He was also a member of the Institute of Race Relations, with an abiding interest in the welfare of all races.

Outside his professional interests he was a keen photographer and student of wild life. He was a member of the Wild Life Society, and served as vice-leader of a scientific expedition to Kosi Bay in 1947, where his special contribution was as photographer. In his youth he had been an active sportsman, playing soccer for Bart's and continuing to play tennis of a high standard. He was a skilled trout fisherman and kept up his golf until a few months before his final illness. He was an accomplished pianist and violinist when younger and in spite of his disability showed keen musical appreciation all his life. Nevertheless he retained all his professional interests and at the age of 85 was a foundation member of the Technical Liaison Association for the prevention and alleviation of deafness. In the same year, 1981, he received a special certificate in recognition of his services by Dale College. He was a loyal Old Dalian, and had been president of Old Dale Union in 1935. The flags at Dale flew at half-mast on the day of his death.

Caiger published several papers between 1942 and 1970 on subjects related to his specialty, notably The role of the epiglottis in anaesthetic deaths, Journal of laryngology and otology, 1942, 57, 250-263, and Antibiotic influence on regenerative and reparative tissue processes, Medical proceedings, 1970, 16.

He married in 1924 Sylvia Day, daughter of V G Day, OBE, a nursing sister from New Zealand whom he met at Bart's. Of their children V G Caiger, MRCS, is a doctor working in South Africa. His sister, Alice Caiger, was a general practitioner now retired, in England.

He died, after some months' painful illness, on 16 April 1983, ten days before his 87th birthday.

Sources used to compile this entry: [SA med J 1983, 63, 1025-26].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England