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Prof. Ronnie Elsdon-Dew (1909-1984)


Photo credit: In Memoriam Ronald Elsdon-Dew, South African Medical Journal, vol 66: 546. 

Ronnie Elsdon-Dew 


Ronnie Elsdon-Dew was born in 1909 in Boksburg (Gauteng, South Africa). He received his education at King Edward VII Schools in Johannesburg from 1916-1925 where he took an active part in extramural activities. He obtained a London University Matriculation exemption and in 1926 was promptly sent to Edinburgh to study medicine where he qualified with a MBCHB in 1932 and received the Conan Doyle prize. During his stay in Scotland he took time off to be an exchange student at Freiburg University (1928) and became an F.R.Med.Soc.Edin with a thesis on Silicosis.


On his return to South Africa in 1932, he joined the Johannesburg General Hospital and then the SAIMR as a pathologist where his main interest was immunology. He started the Transvaal Blood Transfusion Service in 1935 and in 1936 was awarded an MD by the University of the Witwatersrand for his thesis on Blood Groups in South Africa. This was followed by an extended blood grouping safari through Africa which led to the publication of a major monograph, two years later, in 1939.


His family moved to Durban where he entered private practice and became a Visiting Pathologist to the Addington Hospital and to the newly established King Edward VIII Hospital, an appointment he held for 15 years. During World War II Ronnie headed north again, this time as OIC No.1 Mobile Laboratory. It was possibly during this time that he became hooked on parasitology, for in his return he embarked on an association with the second love of his life Entamoeba histolytica, with his first paper on amoebiasis being published in 1946. Initially, his clinico-pathological survey was carried out at the Addington and King Edward VIII Laboratories but in 1949 the CSIR helped by making it possible for him to go to Tulane as a Research Fellow and then on his return constituted the Amoebiasis Research Unit, with Ronnie as Director which together with his appointments as Consultant Parasitologist to the Natal Provincial Services and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Parasitology to the Department of Pathology, as well as an expanding private practice, enabled him to concentrate on his personal interests.


The research output was soon impressive and resulted in grants from a number of South African and foreign services, including the US Public Health Services all of whom are acknowledged on a plaque in the entrance of the Institute for Parasitology initially the name of the building housing the ARU (now MRC).


From this auspicious start he gave up private practice and the output started to flow in many parasitological directions – veterinary science, biology, chemistry and statistics and the clatter of the computer was one of the characteristic sounds of the ARU until he retired in 1974. This work was recognized by Natal University in 1973 when they awarded him a DSc.


Ronnie found time to belong to several professional societies and he was particularly fond of S2A3 where he served as both president (1959) and vice president (1956). He furthered Medical Technology and was involved in the training of parasitology acting as a Moderator for the Final Examination in Parasitology until 1983. He was the prime mover of the Parastiological Society of South Africa and was instrumental in its formation in 1972. We honour him by the Elsdon-Dew Medal.



Author unknown. 1984. In Memoriam: Ronald Elsdon-Dew, South African Medical Journal, 66: 546. 

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