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Biographical entry Hirtenstein, Arnost (1909 - 1986)

MRCS and FRCS 1950; MD Prague 1934; DO Oxford 1943; DOMS 1944.

4 March 1986


Arnost Hirtenstein was born in Slovakia in 1909 and qualified MD in Prague in 1934. After military service during which he developed an interest in ophthalmology he entered general practice in a small town in Northern Bohemia but after three years, in 1939, he was arrested by the Gestapo and forced to leave the country. He reached France and on the outbreak of war joined the Czechoslovak forces. On the collapse of France he was evacuated to England and trained in ophthalmology at Oxford and Wolverhampton. In 1943 he joined the RAF as a graded ophthalmologist. After the war he returned to Czechoslovakia to find that his parents and elder brother had died in concentration camps and his youngest brother had been killed while a partisan. He returned to England in 1946 and became senior registrar and chief assistant at Moorfields and consultant to Selly Oak Hospital, where he set up an eye department. Two years later he was appointed to Wolverhampton Eye Infirmary, where he stayed until his retirement in 1974.

From 1950 he developed an interest in corneal grafting. He pioneered this procedure in the Midlands and lectured in the United Kingdom and abroad. He had a large series of successful cases and was an excellent teacher and diagnostician. He was a dedicated, enthusiastic and lovable workaholic. His other great interest was the medical services in Israel, which he visited regularly. His hobbies included books, photography and gardening. His younger brother, Joseph Hirtenstein, FRCS, is an orthopaedic surgeon.

He died on 4 March 1986 after a long illness, survived by his wife Leonora and their three sons.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1986, 292, 905 with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England