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Biographical entry Le Vay, Abraham David (1915 - 2001)

MRCS LRCP 1937;MB BS London 1937; MS 1940; FRCS 1940.

14 May 1915
16 July 2001
Historian, Orthopaedic surgeon and Writer


David Le Vay was a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Woolwich Brook Memorial Hospital, and a writer and linguist. He was born in London on 14 May 1915, the son of Montague Le Vay, a retailer, and Eva née Goldstein. He was educated at Haberdashers' Aske's School, in Hampstead, from which he entered University College London as the Bucknill scholar. After qualifying, he completed junior posts at the Royal Free Hospital, demonstrated anatomy at Cambridge, and was a registrar at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

He entered the RAMC as an orthopaedic specialist and, on demobilisation, was appointed consultant orthopaedic surgeon to Woolwich Brook Memorial Hospital. In 1960, he was seconded for a year to the World Health Organization in Geneva, and in 1973 spent a year as Visiting Professor of Surgery at the Pahlavi University Medical School in Shiraz, Iran. After retirement, he continued to work for long spells in Australia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Ireland.

He was a talented linguist and had a parallel career as a medical author, biographer and historian. He wrote A history of orthopaedic surgery (Carnforth, Parthenon, 1990), biographies of Hugh Owen Thomas and Alexis Carrel, and numerous textbooks, including the popular Human anatomy and physiology, part of the Teach Yourself series (London, English Universities Press, 1974), which continued to be in demand for more than half a century. He translated innumerable medical textbooks into and from German, Latin, Spanish and French, as well as the novels of Colette and Joseph Roth. His publisher, Hodder and Stoughton, arranged a dinner to celebrate David being their longest continually published author.

He married Marjorie Cole in 1940, and, in 1957, Sonja Hansen. From these two marriages he had two daughters and nine sons, one of whom became a research neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School. He was married four times in all. He died on 16 July 2001.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2001 323 756, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England