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Biographical entry Crafoord, Clarence (1899 - 1984)

Hon FRCS 1958.

28 May 1899
25 February 1984
Cardiovascular surgeon and Thoracic surgeon


The College has no detailed record of Professor Clarence Crafoord and the following is derived from the citation given by Sir Clement Price Thomas on the occasion of Professor Crafoord's admission to the Honorary Fellowship at a College Council meeting on 13 March 1958. Some further information has been added from an article by Ivar Palmer in Acta chirurgica scandinavica, supplement 245, 1959.

Clarence Crafoord was born on 28 May 1899 and was later regarded as something of an infant prodigy in surgery. He always had wide horizons and the catholicity of his interests was mirrored in his publications. His main interest was thoracic surgery and his greatest contributions were in the field of cardiovascular surgery. The first of the hundred contributions he made to the scientific literature was when, as a young surgeon of 28, at the Swedish Surgical Society, he reported two patients successfully operated upon for massive pulmonary embolism. This fired a lifelong interest in venous thromboembolism, and immediately heparin was isolated by his fellow countryman, Professor Jorpes, he began an intensive investigation into its use. His preliminary observations were published in 1937.

During the intervening period he had been working on the problems of anaesthesia for thoracic surgery. He put on a firm scientific basis the principle of what he termed rhythmic ventilation, perfecting the anaesthetic machine which had first been devised by his old chief, Professor J.H. Giertz, with whom he worked for twenty years at the Sabbatsberg Hospital. He performed the first operation for coarctation of the aorta in 1944 and so gave real impetus to the dawning interest in cardiac surgery which then became his chief concern as he developed his service at the Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm. As a result of this work he was honoured in many lands and received the MD (honoris causa) from five foreign universities. He was an Honorary Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and honorary fellow of many foreign scientific societies. He was awarded the Leriche Medal of the International Society of Surgery and was President of the European Cardiovascular Society and the International Cardiovascular Society.

The celebration of Clarence Crafoord's fiftieth birthday was uniquely marked by a presentation to him, by the King of Sweden, of a large sum of money which had been publicly subscribed on a nationwide basis. This he used to finance research in his professorial department of surgery, at the University of Stockholm. Crafoord was held in high regard in his own country and, as a man who radiated friendliness, he inevitably became a globetrotter with a host of devoted friends in many lands. He died, aged 84, on 25 February 1984.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Acta chir scand 1959, supp 245, pp 9-11 with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England