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Biographical entry Krayenbuhl, Hugo (1902 - 1985)

Hon FRCS 1977.

3 December 1902
Zihlschlacht, Switzerland
9 January 1985


Professor Dr Hugo Krayenbuhl was admitted to the honorary Fellowship at a meeting of Council on 10 March 1977. Mr Walpole Lewin delivered a citation in his honour, pointing out that Krayenbuhl was one of the European neurosurgeons who trained in England and subsequently influenced the training of many of our younger neurosurgeons. A firm anglophile, he was an internationally acknowledged surgeon and a friend to many in Great Britain. Mr Lewin summed up his career in the following words:

'Professor Hugo Krayenbuhl, the son of a psychiatrist, was destined in turn to become a neuropsychiatrist. To that end he trained in the neurological clinics both in Berlin and Zurich, coming under the influence of Bonhoeffer and Maier. After some six years, and noting the limitations of neurosurgery at that time, he decided to train in this new specialty. In 1934 he came to the London Hospital for training under our own Hugh Cairns and thus began a firm friendship between them which lasted until the untimely death of Cairns in 1952.

'After his training in England Krayenbuhl returned to Zurich to begin the makings of a neurosurgical department. It is interesting nowadays to reflect that at that time he was expected to take back with him his own operating table and neurosurgical instruments, and it is widely rumoured that in his bag he also carried an endotracheal tube. Some initial disappointments were overcome and a formal unit was opened in 1939. Subsequently Dr Krayenbuhl became the first professor of neurosurgery in Switzerland in 1948. From that time he remained in the forefront of European neurosurgery, and among his numerous contributions one would mention in particular his work on cerebral aneurysms and cerebral vascular disorders, and more recently his encouragement of the development of microneurosurgery. As the years went by his services were in increasing demand throughout Europe and he received numerous honours on both sides of the Atlantic.

'From the time of his training in London Professor Krayenbuhl has remained a firm friend of this country. On several occasions he has attended the meetings of our Society of British Neurological Surgeons, of which he was made an honorary member and to whom subsequently in 1969 he delivered the 5th Hugh Cairns Memorial Lecture. But more than that, many British neurosurgeons over the past 30 years owe a debt to Dr Krayenbuhl not only for the welcome he gave to those who visited his unit but for his contribution to their postgraduate education in setting up seminars and workshops in neurosurgery. His academic career was crowned in 1972 by his election as Honorary Academician of the Accademia Lancisiana di Roma and the award of the Foerster medal in 1973.

'Outside medicine he shares with his wife, whom we welcome here today, a love, and indeed a deep knowledge, of music and painting and takes as his special interest a study of contemporary art. There are few neurosurgical centres in the world that he has not visited and that have not included a surreptitious trip to the local art dealers'

The President, Sir Rodney Smith, then admitted Professor Krayenbuhl to the Honorary Fellowship, saying that the number of Honorary Fellows in the College was strictly limited and Honorary Fellowship was therefore given only to those who have become household names in surgery and respected the world over. Council regarded Profesor Krayenbuhl very highly and fully supported Mr Lewin's citation.

Professor Krayenbuhl replied, expressing his heartfelt gratitude to the Council of the College for this honour, which represented a high point in his medical career. He deeply appreciated the fact that he was the guest of a country with a great cultural tradition and a country in which great things had been done in the field of surgery. As a neurosurgeon and a pupil of Sir Hugh Cairns, he felt especially proud to be a Fellow of this College. He thanked Mr Walpole Lewin for his kind words.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Ann R Coll Surg Engl 1977 59 350; Schweizer Archiv für Neurologie und Psychiatrie 159 4/2008, p.262-4; Congress of Neurological Surgeons Hugo Krayenbühl - accessed 18 September 2015].

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