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Sir Raymond ("Bill") Hoffenberg KBE (16 March 1923 – 22 April 2007) was an endocrinologist who specialised in the study of the thyroid. Born in South Africa, he was forced to leave in 1968, and settled in the United Kingdom, where he was President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1983 to 1989, and President of Wolfson College, Oxford from 1985 to 1993.
Hoffenberg was born and educated in Port Elizabeth in South Africa. He was a brilliant student, and studied medicine at the University of Cape Town from 1939, aged only 16. He was also an active sportsman, taking part in tennis, golf, squash, boxing, and rugby. He enlisted in the Union Defence Force in 1942, serving as a stretcher bearer in the Second World War in North Africa and Italy in the 6th South African Armoured Division.
He returned to South Africa to complete his degrees, MB and ChB, in 1948. He was an intern at Groote Schuur Hospital, and then a lecturer at the University of Cape Town Medical School. He married his first wife, Margaret Rosenberg in 1949, and they lived in Newlands. They had two sons.
He spent some time serving under Albert Schweitzer at Lambaréné in French Equatorial Africa (now Gabon), and travelled to the United States in 1957–8 under a Carnegie Fellowship, and started to specialise in endocrinology. He obtained his MD in 1957 and PhD in 1968. He was a lecturer at the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town from 1955 to 1967. He also continued to practise medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital, where he was involved preparing for Christiaan Barnard's first heart transplant operation in 1967.
Opposition to apartheid
He ran into political difficulties in South Africa. He opposed the apartheid policies of the National Party, and supported Alan Paton's Liberal Party, which he had joined in 1953. He had been a friend of Paton and of the party's chairman, Peter Brown, since they were students together in Cape Town. He supported the National Union of South African Students, and was chairman of the Defence and Aid Fund, which funded the defence of those accused of political crimes and supported their families, until it was banned in 1966. In July 1967, the Prime Minister John Vorster passed a banning order under the Suppression of Communism Act which prohibited him from all political and social activity for 5 years. By now, he had an international reputation as a leading endocrinologist, and the banning order led to widespread protest.
Emigration to the United Kingdom
He and his family were given an "exit permit" to leave South Africa in 1968, on condition that they did not come back. He moved to the United Kingdom, where he continued to lend support to the campaign against apartheid. The exiled Oliver Tambo was a patient for many years.
He worked for the National Medical Health and Research Council at Mill Hill in north London, and at the thyroid clinic at New End Hospital in Hampstead, for four years from 1968. He became professor of medicine at Birmingham University in 1972, where he developed an outstanding endocrine department. He became President of Wolfson College, Oxford in 1985.
Meanwhile, he was President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1983 to 1989, publicly disagreeing with the Conservative government's policy of introducing an internal market into the National Health Service. He was appointed KBE in 1984. He was also president of the International Society for Endocrinology, chairman of the British Heart Foundation, and chairman of the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear War and later vice-president of its successor, MEDACT. He held six honorary doctorates, and was a fellow of seven learned societies. After the Alder Hey organs scandal came to light in 1999, he courted controversy by arguing for the medical benefits from retaining tissue samples from post-mortem examinations.
- Obituary, The Independent, 24 April 2007
- Obituary, The Times, 25 April 2007
- Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, 9 May 2007
- Obituary, The Guardian, 29 May 2007
- RCP Presidents
Sir Douglas Black
|President of the Royal College of Physicians
Sir Henry Fisher
|President of Wolfson College, Oxford
William James Kennedy