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Biographical entry Friedmann, Imrich (1907 - 2002)

MD Prague 1931; MRCS LRCP 1942; DCP 1944; FCPath 1964; DSc London 1967; FRCS 1979.

4 June 1907
11 July 2002
Stanmore, Middlesex
ENT pathologist, Histopathologist and Pathologist


Born in Czechoslovakia in 1907, Imrich Friedmann became a pathologist in chief in Zlin in 1936. Three years later, when Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Nazis, he escaped to England and obtained English qualifications in 1942. A year later, he was called up for military service in the Free Czech Army. He returned to Czechoslovakia at the end of the war, but was forced to flee again when it was invaded by the Communists. He was appointed to the Institute of Laryngology and Otology in 1949, where he became acknowledged as the founding father of ear, nose and throat pathology and was made professor of pathology at the Institute in 1963. He retired from this chair in 1972 and was appointed visiting histopathologist at Northwick Park Hospital. A lover of music, he played the violin in the Three Hospitals Orchestra, under the direction of Norman Del Mar and later the Hospitals Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis. He married Joan Drew in 1943. He died on 11 July 2002.

See below for an amended version of the published obituary:

Imrich Friedmann was the founding father of modern ear, nose and throat pathology. Having qualified MD in Prague in 1931, he became a specialist in pathology in Bratislava, and at the onset of the Second World War was pathologist-in-chief at Zlin. His escape from Czechoslovakia via Holland was aided by an American Quaker mission, which helped him to obtain a British visa.

He arrived in London on 30 April 1939 and briefly worked at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and in the department of pathology at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School. In January 1940, he was fortunate to be selected from among a number of doctors from Czechoslovakia for admission to University College Medical School, where he qualified MRCS LRCP in 1942. He was then appointed as a demonstrator and Turner research fellow at the department of pathology, Hammersmith Hospital.

In 1943 he met and married Joan Drew, but it was not long before he was called up by the Free Czech Army medical mission as a pathologist. He was flown by the RAF to Tehran, transported by the Red Army to Baku and then by train to KoŇ°ice, where he took over the pathology department of the state hospital. His task was to reconstruct and update the department. He was joined by Joan at the end of the Second World War, but in 1948 they were obliged by the Communist takeover to return to the UK.

An appointment as assistant pathologist to the newly formed Institute of Laryngology and Otology, London, was the start of his international career. He became reader and director of the pathology department in 1952, and in 1963 was promoted to professor of pathology at the University of London.

He contributed the chapter on ENT pathology in three editions of Systemic pathology(London, Longmans, 1966; Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 1978; Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 1986). Pathology of the ear (Oxford, Blackwell Scientific), perhaps his most famous book, was published in 1974. His particular interest was in the field of electron microscopy of the inner ear. Friedmann was a member of the Collegium (CORLAS), the international group of academic otorhinolaryngologists, and lectured all over the world on the pathology of deafness and granulomas in the head and neck.

Freidmann received many awards, including Semon lectureship of the University of London (1970), the McBride lectureship of the University of Edinburgh (1980), and the gold medal of the Slovakian Academy of Arts and Sciences. His election to the fellowship of our College in 1979 gave him great pleasure.

On his retirement in 1972, he became emeritus professor of pathology and at the same time a visiting histopathologist to Northwick Park and Mount Vernon hospitals, where he continued to work one day a week until he reached his early 90s.

Imrich Friedmann played the violin in two medical orchestras - the Three Hospitals Orchestra, under the direction of Norman Del Mar, and subsequently the Hospitals Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Sir Colin Davis. When he died on 11 July 2002 at the age of 95 he was survived by his wife, Joan.

Neil Weir

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2002 325 601].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England