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Biographical entry Pollen, Andrew Gerald (1923 - 2002)

MRCS and FRCS 1954; MB BS London 1946.

17 October 1923
19 December 2002
Orthopaedic surgeon


Andrew Pollen was an orthopaedic surgeon at Bedford General Hospital. He was born in London on 17 October 1923, the son of Jewish parents whose families had to flee persecution in Russia under Tsar Alexander III. His father, Zalman Pollen, was an artist and art teacher, his mother was Esther Violet née Lipschitz. He was educated at Willesden County and Berkhamsted Schools, and then studied medicine at St Mary's, where he won the Broadbent and Waller memorial prizes, and the coveted Alexander Fleming prize for bacteriology - the great man inviting him home for dinner on the strength of it.

While a student Andrew served in the Home Guard and fire-watched at St Mary's and at Boosey and Hawkes, the music publishers on Regent Street - which enabled him to expand his already formidable knowledge of classical music. After one night bombing raid, Andrew entered a ward to be greeted by the sister. One of the patients thought there was a bomb under her bed and the nurse wanted Pollen to reassure her. He duly went to see the patient, looked under the bed and retrieved a partially hidden incendiary bomb. It had entered the ward through an open window. He rapidly disposed of it. The patient was relieved, the sister speechless.

After resident posts at St Mary's, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and St George's, he did his National Service in the RAMC attached to the Royal West African Frontier Force in Nigeria. There he found a swimming pool in the compound: empty for want of chlorine. He set about getting chlorine and the lives of his men were transformed. He also obtained a gramophone and records from the Red Cross and organised regular and well-attended music 'recitals' and discussions.

On demobilisation, he was undecided as to whether to specialise in general surgery or orthopaedics. He chose the latter. He became a registrar at St George's under Burns and Young, and was later a senior registrar at St Mary's under John Crawford Adams and George Bonney. He was appointed consultant orthopaedic surgeon to Bedford General Hospital in 1961.

Andrew was keenly interested in fractures in children, writing a monograph, Fractures and dislocations in children (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 1973). Sadly, due to pressure of work he was unable to complete a second edition. He published many papers on a variety of subjects and was invited to lecture abroad. He was particularly interested in hand surgery, devising a special type of finger strap, known as the Bedford finger stall.

He was an outstanding teacher with a gift for clarity and precision. For some years he was a recognised teacher at the University of Cambridge. He was a keen participant at orthopaedic meetings, presenting papers and contributing astute observations in discussions.

He retired in 1989, but continued attending meetings and his private medico-legal work until a few months before his death. He married Joan Margaret Horder, a histopathologist, in 1966, and they had an exceedingly happy marriage. He died after a short illness on 19 December 2002.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Joan Horder Pollen].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England