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Biographical entry Kaplan, Cyril Jacob (1917 - 2012)

MB ChB Cape Town 1940; MCh Liverpool 1947; FRCS 1948; MD New York 1977; FACS 1979.

29 May 1917
Durban, Natal, South Africa
11 July 2012
Orthopaedic surgeon


Cyril Jacob Kaplan was a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and associate professor of orthopaedics at the Albert Einstein Medical College, New York. He was born in Durban, South Africa, on 29 May 1917, the eldest son of Saul Joseph Kaplan, a merchant, and Zelda Kaplan née Friedman. He attended Durban Preparatory High School and then Hilton College, Natal, before studying medicine at the University of Cape Town, qualifying in 1940.

After house posts in Durban, in July 1942 he joined the South African Medical Corps. He was initially posted to Oribi Military Hospital, where he worked under Arthur Eyre-Brook, a distinguished orthopaedic surgeon, and treated wounded soldiers and Italian prisoners of war. He was then posted to North Africa and visited Palestine for the first time.

In May 1946 he was demobilised in the UK and studied at Liverpool, where he gained a masters degree in orthopaedic surgery, and at Guy's Hospital, London. He passed his FRCS in 1948.

He immediately left for the newly-proclaimed state of Israel, which was at war with its Arab neighbours. He joined the Israeli Army Medical Service and at Haifa established and headed the orthopaedic department at No 10 Military Hospital.

After 14 months of service, he returned to South Africa and started an orthopaedic practice in Durban. He was also an honorary lecturer at the University of Natal and did charitable work. In 1958 he gave a Hunterian lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons on spinal tuberculosis. A decade later he visited John Charnley's centre for hip surgery at Wrightington Hospital, and afterwards introduced the Charnley procedure to South Africa. From 1973 to 1975, he was president of the South African Orthopaedic Association.

In 1971 he temporarily took over the department of orthopaedics at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem during the War of Attrition, and two years later returned as a volunteer surgeon after the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War.

He left South Africa in 1976 and took up a clinical and academic post in the department of orthopaedics at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, New York. He returned to South Africa in the 1980s, but moved back to New York in 1989 and continued to work at Montefiore Hospital and the Albert Einstein Medical College until his retirement in 2002.

His memoir, In three wars: a personal and orthopaedic perspective (New York: Xlibris Corporation), was published in 2008.

In 2011 Kaplan moved back to Durban, his birthplace. Outside medicine he was interested in European and African history, and collected old maps and Persian miniature paintings. In his retirement, he sculpted in bronze. Cyril Kaplan died on 11 July 2012, at the age of 95. He was survived by his wife, Sylvia (née Kisner), a pathologist he met in Israel in 1949, and their three sons, daughter and two grandchildren.

Sarah Gillam

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2012 345 7453 - accessed 20 December 2017; Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2014 Feb; 472(2): 769-770 - accessed 21 December 2017].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England