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Biographical entry Van den Brenk, Hendrick Athos Sydney (1921 - 1992)

MRCS and FRCS 1954; MB BS Melbourne 1944; MS 1954; FRCR.

22 June 1921
Sydney, Australia
21 August 1992
oncologist, Radiologist and Radiotherapist


Hendrick Van den Brenk, a radiotherapist, radiologist and experimental oncologist in Australia and England, was born on 22 June 1921 in Sydney, Australia, and qualified MB BS at Melbourne in 1944. He gained the MS degree in 1954, the same year in which he passed the Fellowship. After practising as a general surgeon in Boort, Victoria, he spent two years as senior research fellow in physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons. Returning to Australia, he was consultant radiotherapy research officer at the Melbourne Cancer Institute from 1956 to 1967. He then became Richard Dimbleby Fellow in Cancer Research and honorary consultant physician at St Thomas's Hospital, London, from 1967 to 1978, becoming the Foundation Richard Dimbleby Professor of Cancer Research at St Thomas's Hospital Medical School from 1975 to 1978. On returning to Australia he was SMO (Appeals) on the Repatriation Committee from 1979 and SMO of the Commonwealth Department of Veterans' Affairs. Harold Hewitt, MD, FRCR, writes in the British Medical Journal:

'"Van" had an international reputation as a clinical radiotherapist, radiobiologist and oncologist. He published over 250 papers which, fifteen years after his retirement from clinical and laboratory work, retained a high citation index.

'While working as chief of the radiobiomedical unit of Melbourne Cancer Institute Van carried out one of the first controlled clinical trials of hyperbaric oxygen as an adjunct to radiotherapy. In 1967 he was appointed foundation director of the Richard Dimbleby Laboratory of Cancer Research at St Thomas's Hospital, London. There he devoted himself to experimental research at the bench. After returning to Australia in 1977 for family reasons he became senior medical officer of the Commonwealth Department of Veterans' Affairs and then, after his 'retirement', medical officer to a high security prison.

'Van's toughness (he lost the sight of one eye in infancy and had severe angina for his last twenty years and malignant disease for his last three) contrasted with his sensitive nature. He was a talented violinist and pianist and a philatelist and angler. His acerbic rejection of overpromoted theories and inflated egos was given an extra edge by a guttural ingredient (from his Dutch parentage) in his Australian accent. His wife, Miriam, died before him; he is survived by his daughters, Christine and Judy, and six grandchildren.'

He died on 21 August 1992, aged 72 years.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1993 306 58].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England