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Biographical entry Katz, Arnold (1920 - 1994)

MRCS and FRCS 1951; MB ChB Cape Town 1942; MCh 1946.

10 September 1920
Benoni, East Rand
22 July 1994
General surgeon and Paediatric surgeon


Arnold Katz was born on 10 September 1920 in the town of Benoni in the East Rand, the eldest son of Abe and Anne Katz. His parents were expatriate Lithuanian Jews, and his father was a businessman in the import and export trade, who later moved to Cape Town. Both his parents died at an early age and he was effectively brought up by his grandparents. He had a sister who became a radiographer in South Africa, and a brother who was sent to train in Liverpool in the 1920s, returning to become one of the leading neurologists in Johannesburg; thus there was never any doubt that Arnold would go into medicine. One of Arnold's earliest memories was of the riots involving white mine workers in 1924 and 1925, when he was caught in a riot in a park and was rescued by his black nanny, who hid him under her skirts and got him home safely.

Moving to Cape Town in 1926, he completed his schooling at Wynberg Boys' School and qualified in medicine at the University of Cape Town in 1942, receiving the Thackwray Prize for the most promising student in surgery. He then completed his internship under Professor Brock and Professor Saint at the Groote Schuur Hospital and also worked with Professor Goetz in experiments on the peripheral circulation. After a short spell in Johannesburg and Durban he returned to Groote Schuur Hospital, completing his MCh in 1946 and continuing his research on Raynaud's phenomenon with Professor Goetz.

In 1950 he was awarded a Cecil John Adams Travelling Fellowship, which allowed him to obtain his FRCS and to train in paediatric surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital under Mr Twistington-Higgins and David Innes-Williams. In 1952 he returned to Cape Town to private general surgical practice and as a part-time consultant at Groote Schuur Hospital, where his interest in paediatric surgery made him a most valuable member of Professor J H Louw's team. When the Red Cross Children's Hospital opened he was appointed consultant in charge of a surgical ward, with particular responsibility for the treatment of paediatric osteomyelitis. His interest also extended to the management of children with malignant disease, but it was his interest in osteomyelitis that led to a Hunterian Professorship in 1978. He was also responsible for identifying the first familial group of Hirschsprung's children, and it is of interest that the gene responsible for this disease was identified in the week that he died.

He was a founder member of the South African Association of Paediatric Surgeons, served as Vice-Chairman of the World Fellowship of the Israeli Medical Association and played an active part in the Cape Town Jewish community. A large donation from a grateful patient was diverted to fund the Tel Aviv Department of Paediatric Surgery. In 1990 that department honoured Dr Katz with the Distinguished Surgeons' Award, certificate and medal for his contributions to the department and to paediatric surgery in Cape Town and South Africa. He is remembered for his undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.

His athletic achievements included a full blue for hockey at the University of Cape Town in 1941. He was also a keen runner, and completed a marathon at the age of 68.

He died on 22 July 1994, his wife Bussa having predeceased him, survived by his sons David (who became Professor of Immunology at University College London Medical School) and Evan, and a daughter, Debra, a nutritional expert at the Albert Einstein Institute in New York.

Sources used to compile this entry: [SAMJ 1994 84 790, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England