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Prof Robert de Marneffe

SICOT and the orthopaedic community have lost a great surgeon and administrator in the death of Prof Robert de Marneffe on 28 August 2007. He was born on 1 September 1919. His father was the Medical Director of the Anglo-Belgian Military Hospital in Rouen, France, and met there his mother, a physical therapist from England, in 1916. Later, they founded the Physical Therapy Institute Armand de Marneffe in Brussels.

Robert de Marneffe graduated from the Faculty of Medicine of Brussels University in 1945. He started his speciality training in general surgery with a special interest in orthopaedic surgery. During the same period, he worked on a thesis entitled "Morphologic and experimental study on bone vascularisation". He gained his PhD in 1951, and began his training at the Saint Pierre University Hospital in Brussels, which was attended by Robert Danis at this time. In 1965 he took charge of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, part of the Department of Surgery at the Brugmann University Hospital and continued in that role until 1984 when he retired.

He was very active in many different fields. His clinical practise was one of the first in Belgium to use total hip arthroplasty. In his Department, he was surrounded by a valuable team of assistants, Jacques Wagner who succeeded him as Secretary General of SICOT and Franz Burny who later became Head of the first independent Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Brussels University in the "Cliniques Universitaires de Bruxelles, Hôpital Erasme".

Involved since the beginning of 1962 in the Speciality Board of Orthopaedic Surgery at Brussels University, he worked to improve and develop the ‘plural’ approach to training, involving the heads of all the orthopaedic departments of the main hospitals connected to Brussels University.

He became a member of SICOT in 1957 and succeeded Antoine Bailleux as Secretary General in 1966. He strongly supported the internationalism of SICOT. He remained Secretary General until 1984, when he was elected President at the London Congress. As President, he worked with Sir Dennis Paterson and John Sharrard to renew the SICOT Statutes, making the Society more accessible to orthopaedic surgeons around the world. In 1989, he completed a compilation of the founding documents of SICOT for the celebration of its 60th anniversary. As SICOT was part of his life, he was always eager to give advice on revision of the Statutes and to contribute with historical work on the Society. He attended the San Diego Congress in 2002.

Prof de Marneffe was active in several related disciplines particularly physical therapy, of which he was a Professor at the Higher Institute of Physical Therapy at Brussels University. He was a member of the Royal Academy of Medicine, President of the Belgian Royal Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Trauma tology, Corresponding Editor of the JBJS and a Foreign Member of the Scientific Council of the "Revue de Chirurgie Orthopédique".

Those who had the opportunity to meet him will remember his direct and frank approach. There was no ambiguity in his words and you could understand instantly if he agreed or disagreed with your ideas. He was very pragmatic and when he adopted a project he was able to overcome any obstacles to its completion. Totally devoted to SICOT, he was a strong supporter of the international fraternity that our society can establish between orthopaedic surgeons, which guarantees that the most advanced research and techniques are developed and applied and that the level of orthopaedic care is increased everywhere in the world. These remain the two fronts of SICOT which he so ardently promoted.