1 January 1912|
Wynberg, South Africa
|Died||12 July 1985
|Institutions||Godfrey Huggins School of Medicine|
|Alma mater||University of Cape Town|
|Known for||working as a tropical docotor|
|Notable awards||Order of the Knighthood of St. Sylvester, OBE, CBE|
Professor Michael Gelfand OBE, CBE, Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester, MD (Cape Town), FRCP, DPH (London), DMR, Hon. LLD (Zimbabwe and Birmingham), Hon. DLitt (Cape Town), was one of Rhodesia's/Zimbabwe's most distinguished medical practitioners, who received a Papal Order of the Knighthood of St. Sylvester.
Professor Gelfand was born in Wynberg, Cape Province, South Africa, in 1912, of immigrant Lithuanian parents, and he died on 12 July 1985, while attending a patient in the Avenues Clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe.
After qualifying in South Africa and working there and in England, in 1939 he joined the then-Southern Rhodesia Medical Service as Physician, Pathologist and Radiologist. He had married a Bulawayo girl, Esther Kollenberg, whom he had met at the University of Cape Town, and it was natural that, when their first child was due (they eventually had three girls), they decided to join Esther's parents in Rhodesia. Once in government service he quickly gained a reputation by being the only doctor to diagnose correctly the illness of the wife of the Head of the Medical Services.
In 1962 he joined the then-University of Rhodesia as founding Professor of African Medicine. From 1970 until his retirement, in 1977, he was Professor and Head of Department of Medicine, and thereafter Emeritius Professor and Senior Clinical Research Fellow.
In 1955 he founded the Central African Journal of Medicine with Joseph Ritchken, and remained its co-editor for many years.
He was a prolific writer: 330 articles and monographs in various journals on topics ranging from medicine, ethics, philosophy, history and religion, to Shona custom, religion and culture. He wrote more than 30 books, amongst them The Sick African and Livingstone, the Doctor.
He is remembered in Zimbabwe with admiration and affection. Esther Gelfand, his widow, still lives in Harare, in the same house they shared together for many years.
- Cultural aspects of medicine
- The Sick African (1944)
- Schistosomiasis in South-Central Africa (1950)
- Medicine and Magic of the Mashona (1956)
- Shona Ritual (1959)
- Medicine in Tropical Africa (1961)
- Medicine and Custom in Africa (1964)
- An African's Religion (1966)
- The African Witch (1967)
- African Crucible (1968)
- Diet and Tradition in an African Culture (1971)