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Biographical entry Klenerman, Leslie (1929 - 2015)

MB BS Witwatersrand 1951; FRCS 1957; FRCS Edin 1957; ChM 1973.

1 May 1929
Johannesburg, South Africa
20 July 2015
Orthopaedic surgeon


Leslie Klenerman was professor of orthopaedic and accident surgery at the University of Liverpool. He was born in Johannesburg on 1 May 1929. His parents, Aaron and Fanny Klenerman, were part of a Latvian and Lithuanian community which had emigrated to South Africa earlier in the century. His father and an aunt, Pauline, were doctors who had trained in the UK and returned to South Africa to practise. Another aunt, Fanny, ran a left wing bookshop in Johannesburg.

Leslie studied medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and qualified in 1951. At Wits he was influenced by the anthropologist Raymond Dart, and became a lecturer in Dart's department of anatomy.

In 1956 he moved to the UK and began his specialty training to become an orthopaedic surgeon. He held posts at Oswestry, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and at the Middlesex, and gained his FRCS in 1957. In 1967 he obtained his first consultant post, at Tottenham, where among other duties he looked after the local Spurs football team. In 1970 he moved on to the new Northwick Park Hospital and associated clinical research centre, recognising that the post gave him an opportunity to develop his research career.

In 1987 he took up the long-established chair of orthopaedics at Liverpool, where his surgical practice, research and teaching were all allowed to flourish. In particular, he took on the running of the MCh (Orth) course, which attracted trainees from around the world, encouraging the development of a whole generation of surgeons who came under his mentorship. He cared for not just their professional and scientific development, but took an interest in many aspects of their lives, leaving a lasting legacy worldwide.

He had a particular interest in the foot and ankle, helping to establish this sub-specialty both nationally and internationally. He wrote an early, influential book on the subject and was the founding editor of the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, the leading journal in the field.

He was a founder member of the British Orthopaedic Foot Surgery Society, which became the British Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, and was its secretary for many years. He was elected president of this society as well as the British Orthopaedic Research Society. He was a leading figure in the European Society of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, and was instrumental in the union of this group with the European Federation of Foot and Ankle Societies. The new organisation, the European Foot and Ankle Society, was formed in 1998 and Leslie also served as its president.

Leslie also gave distinguished service to the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. In retirement, he asked if he could be of use at the Journal and was appointed as an associate editor. He remained in this role for many years, rewriting and editing countless manuscripts. His wide experience was of considerable value at meetings of the editorial board, where his quiet humour often enhanced a spirited discussion. Leslie enjoyed the Journal and his amiable presence made him a valued member of the editorial and production team.

He was a dedicated, lifelong swimmer. In South Africa he won national championships at 110 and 220 yards freestyle and just missed being picked for the 1948 Olympics. In the UK he continued to swim every day; his last competitive event was the one-mile Great North Swim in 2012, when he 83.

In 1954 he married Naomi Sacks, a fellow Wits student, whom he had met while on a visit to the caves where Raymond Dart was uncovering evidence of early hominins. When they retired, Leslie and Naomi moved first to the Ceiriog Valley in North Wales, and then on to Cambridge, where Leslie taught in the department of anatomy.

Leslie Klenerman died on 20 July 2015. He was 86. Predeceased by Naomi, he was survived by two sons, David and Paul, who both inherited his love of science, medicine and sport, and four grandchildren. All his family have benefited from his love, encouragement and wisdom.

David Jones

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Guardian 12 August 2015 - accessed 22 April 2016; Bone & Joint Professor Leslie Klenerman - accessed 22 April 2016; British Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society Professor Leslie Klenerman A Life Remembered - accessed 22 April 2016].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England