Raymond Bill Hoffenberg (1923 - 2007)
The Order of the Baobab in
Profile of Raymond Bill Hoffenberg
Born in Port Elizabeth, in 1923, Sir Raymond Hoffenberg was a man of unusual courage and steadfast principles.
He served with the South African armed forces in World War II and qualified in medicine at the University of Cape Town. He spent some time serving under Albert Schweitzer at Lambarene in what is now Gabon.
He obtained his MD in 1957 and PHD in 1968 at the University of Cape Town’s medical school. He was a lecturer at the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town from 1955 to 1967. In between his studies, Hoffenberg travelled to the United States in 1957 and 1958 under a Carnegie Fellowship where he started to specialise in endocrinology.
Hoffenberg practised medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital, where he was involved in preparing for Chris Barnard's first heart transplant operation in 1967. In the same year, he ran into political difficulties in South Africa. He opposed the apartheid policies of the Nationalist Party, and supported Alan Paton’s non-racial Liberal Party, which he had joined in 1953. He supported the National Union of South African Students, and was chairperson 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, Prime Minister John Vorster slapped a banning order on him under the Suppression of Communism Act, which prohibited him from all political and social activities for five years. By then, he had an international reputation as a leading endocrinologist, and the banning order led to widespread protest. 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 his patient for many years.
Hoffenberg wrote extensively on endocrinology and metabolism, and was president of several organisations, including the Mental Health Foundation. 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. 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.
While president of the Royal College of Physicians from 1983 to 1989, Hoffenberg publicly disagreed with the Conservative government's policy of introducing an internal market into the National Health Service. He was knighted in 1984. He was also president of the International Society for Endocrinology, chairperson of the British Heart Foundation and chairperson of the Medical Campaign against Nuclear War. He held six honorary doctorates, and was a fellow of seven learned societies.
He retired in 1993 and moved to Queensland, Australia, where he was Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Queensland from 1993 to 1995.
Hoffenberg died in Oxford in April 2007. He never gave up hope in the fight for the freedom of humankind. He pursued this dream whilst also pursuing his medical career in which he excelled. He left a twin legacy of excellence in his chosen field and a lifelong contribution to freedom for all South Africans.
He is survived by his second wife, Madeleine, whom he married in December 2006, and by two sons.