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Biographical entry Kohn, Frederick (1892 - 1984)

FRCS 1975 by election; MD Prague 1915.

22 May 1892
Komotau, North West Bohemia
18 December 1984
General practitioner and General surgeon


Frederick (Fritz) Kohn was born of Jewish parents on 22 May 1892 in Komotau in North West Bohemia, the son of a horse dealer and his early education was at the local gymnasium (grammar school), where he was taught by Cistercian monks. In 1910 he went to Prague for medical studies at the German Karl Ferdinand University and qualified in 1915. After six months postgraduate work in Prague he was commissioned into the Austro-Hungarian Army as a Lieutenant, serving on the Eastern Front.

At the end of the war he returned to civilian life, initially as a general practitioner but in 1920 he moved to work in Karlsbad, a spa town with a population of about 20,000. He was appointed surgeon to a private hospital and in addition to treating the local population also looked after many patients from other parts who required surgical attention while visiting the spa. He remained in practice at Karlsbad until 1938 when he was called upon to serve in the Czechoslovakian Army for a short while until the Sudetenland was taken over by German troops. He was then arrested and imprisoned by the Germans and spent some time in Dachau before being released as a result of intervention by the Quakers. He and his wife arrived in England shortly before the war and after the outbreak of hostilities the Medical Officer of Health of the City of London, Dr C F White, appointed him a stretcher-bearer in the service of the ARP. At first the duties were light but when the air-raids on London started in October 1940 his work was arduous and dangerous. Many of his victims were taken to St Bartholomew's Hospital and his work and surgical knowledge came to the attention of Professor Sir James Paterson Ross. In 1941 he was given permission to work as a doctor and was successful in his application for the post of house surgeon at St Martin's Hospital, Bath. Within a few weeks the resident surgical officer had been called up and as Fritz's ability had by then been recognised he was appointed medical superintendent and in addition to his administrative duties continued to work as a surgeon throughout the war years; this included treating most of the victims of the air raids on Bath on two consecutive nights in May 1942, when over two hundred casualties were brought to the hospital. Wounded soldiers from North Africa came to the hospital after arrival at Avonmouth by convoy and later in the war some of the wounded from Normandy came to St Martin's after being flown home only a few hours after sustaining their injuries on the battlefield. St Martin's Hospital was a local poor law hospital, enlarged by Emergency Medical Service huts and at its maximum capacity during the war years accommodated nine hundred patients.

After the introduction of the National Health Service his administrative duties as medical superintendent ceased but he remained on the hospital staff as consultant surgeon until 1957. His cheerful manner made him popular with patients and professional colleagues, but he could be abrasive in the operating theatre when difficulties arose. The high esteem in which he was held is testified by the building of the Kohn Hall and Library at St Martin's Hospital with money raised by public subscription and his services to the nation and the Royal College of Surgeons were recognised by the award of the King's Medal and his election to the Fellowship in 1975. He died on 18 December 1984, aged 92 and was survived by his wife and son, Ernst.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1985, 290, 326; "It went through my mind", Dr F Kohn, Bath: Ralph Allen Press].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England