Lives of the fellows

Geoffry Challen Linder

b.13 December 1892 d.3 September 1981
MRCS LRCP(1915) MB BS Lond(1915) MD(1920) MRCP(1921) FRCP(1946)

Geoffry Linder, emeritus professor of chemical pathology at the University of Cape Town, SA, was born at Croydon, England. His father, William Linder, was a clerk in business and his mother Margaret Maria (née Redgate) was the daughter of a merchant. Geoff was educated at Brighton Grammar School and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, graduating in 1915. At the outbreak of the first world war he enlisted as a private in a field ambulance unit but was discharged under a War Office order to return to medical school and complete his studies. After qualifying he served as a medical officer RAMC in France, Egypt and Palestine, being wounded in the fighting near Arras. On demobilization he became house physician at Bart’s, obtaining his MD and MRCP.

From 1922 to 1924 Geoff worked as assistant resident physician at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, USA, in the laboratory of DD van Slyke, on the metabolism and blood chemistry of patients with nephritis. He also undertook various clinical duties. It was here that he met Ruby Marshall, a graduate of the Army School of Nursing, Walter Reed Hospital, who was then working in the diet kitchen of the Institute. They married in 1925 and had two children: a daughter who graduated MB ChB (Cape Town) and a son who is an advocate in South Africa.

Geoff worked in England from 1924 to 1929 as senior assistant in charge of chemical pathology in the pathological department of the University of Cape Town, under BJ Ryrie. He was honorary biochemist at the New Somerset Hospital and, subsequently, at the Groote Schuur. He also initiated the diabetic clinic at the Free Dispensary. During this period he ran the chemical laboratories with the aid of one assistant, EJ Duncan, and little other help. He also ran the diabetic clinic with one assistant - the dermatology house physician. To this day the staff of the diabetic clinic includes a member of the dermatology department. It is interesting to note that Linder’s first insulin-taking patient was John D Rockefeller.

Before long Linder was joined by WPU Jackson (now professor of medicine, Cape Town) and Grayce: they were now a team of four. Jackson remembers how they were kept busy by an Italian gentleman named Toni, who had lost most of his small bowel. In those days little was known about the metabolic consequences of this. For a brief period Toni developed a hallucinatory psychosis which caused an uproar in the ward when everyone tried to locate Toni’s two-dimensional dog — with Bill Hoffenberg (now PRCP) helping and attempting to placate Toni at the same time. The problem, of course, being that when a two-dimensional dog turns sideways it disappears! Toni’s large bowel proved extremely adaptable — he often passed only a single motion a day, but that one stool had a volume of four litres or more. Geoff was constrained to remark that he worked in a laboratory and not a lavatory, and would they please take aliquots!

Linder was appointed the first professor of chemical pathology at the University in 1948, a post he held until he retired in 1957. In June 1958 he was elected emeritus professor. He contributed several papers to medical journals.

He was a quiet, unassuming, hardworking man with a splendidly dry sense of humour; a man who thought his job was to stay in Cape Town and run the laboratory rather than go gallivanting around the world attending meetings and raising money for projects. He was an outstanding gentleman of the old school, marvellous to work with, a good friend, and without great ambition in the usual sense. Having found his proper place he was content to fill it with distinction, backed by a firm family life and friends who genuinely loved him. Apart from his work and his family, his main interest was photography.

WPU Jackson
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
Valérie Luniewska

(Volume VII, page 337)

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