Lives of the fellows

Albert Sachs

b.18 May 1904 d.23 January 1976
CB(1955) CBE(1952) BA Dubl(1926) MB ChB BAO(1926) MSc(1935) MRCP(1953) FRCP(1964) FRCPath(1964)

Albert Sachs was born in Pretoria, South Africa. His father was John Sachs JP, a chemist, and his mother Dorothy was the daughter of Samuel Kantor, a business director.

He was educated at Pretoria High School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in medicine in 1926. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1927, and the following year was posted to India, where he continued to serve, with brief interludes in the United Kingdom, until 1941. During this time he served as pathologist to military hospitals at Bannu (1928), Jubbulpore (1929 — 1930), Nasirabad (1930), Bareilly (1931), Peshawar (1932-1934) and Quetta (1936-1941), being promoted captain in 1930 and major in 1937.

From the outset, Sachs eagerly grasped the numerous opportunities that tropical service provided. He investigated an outbreak of meningitis among Indian recruits at Nasirabad in Rajputana, and reported his findings to the War Office. He collaborated with Major (later Major-General) LT Poole in a study of the aetiology of sandfly fever. He saw active service on the North West Frontier in the Mohmand operations in 1933, and was awarded the medal and clasp. Returning to the UK in 1934 he published observations on relapsing fever and passed the specialist course in pathology at the Royal Army Medical College with distinction. Back in India as deputy assistant director of pathology at Quetta, Sachs energetically followed up the work pioneered by Large on the antigenic structure of the non-mannite fermenting dysentery organisms, with which their names are now associated.

After the outbreak of the second world war, Sachs served in India and the UK until appointed assistant director of pathology to the 10th Army in 1942, when he proceeded to the Middle East, serving in Africa, Italy and Iraq. He studied typhus fever which was then endemic in Iran, and later published observations on some three thousand cases. He was appointed assistant director of pathology, Central Mediterranean Force, in the rank of colonel, in 1945.

After serving again in India during partition, Sachs returned to the UK and, after a brief spell as reader, was appointed professor of pathology at the Royal Army Medical College in 1949. At that time this was a conjoint appointment with that of consultant pathologist to the Army and director of Army pathology. He was promoted brigadier and his responsibilities, besides those of clinical pathology and transfusion, embraced the medical aspects of atomic, bacteriological and chemical warfare, then in their infancy, and immunology, to which he made substantial contributions. He directed the field trial to assess the relative merits of phenolized and alcoholized TAB vaccines and, in collaboration with Mollie Bar, investigated methods for the prevention of tetanus in the wounded, as a result of which Army policy was revised.

In 1953 Sachs was promoted major-general and appointed deputy director of medical services, Eastern Command. He retired from the Army after three years in this appointment in 1956, and was appointed consultant pathologist to the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, Sussex.

Having been away from the bench for some years, the numerous practical problems now confronting him as a single handed clinical pathologist made considerable demands, which he met with all his characteristic energy. He took a leading role in the development of the new burns unit and pioneered the production of a Pseudomonas pyocyanea vaccine for the prophylaxis of infection. He published several papers on the pathological aspects of tissue transplants and on the immunoprophylaxis of infection in burns. His colleagues at East Grinstead soon realized, as one wrote, that they ‘had acquired a man of rare character with immense charm and wide experience ... who radiated good cheer which illuminated the lives of all who worked with him’.

Known to three generations with affection as ‘Bertie’, Sachs was devoted to the Corps with which he maintained the closest contact all his life. He was honorary colonel 44 (Home Counties) Infantry Division RAMC (TA) (1956-1961) and colonel commandant RAMC (1964 -1969). He was also much in demand as a speaker on its history and outstanding personalities, of which he was one of the most colourful. He had many interests: he was a Freeman of the City of London, a patternmaker and a fine swimmer, while tennis, gardening and philately were other favourite preoccupations.

He married Olga, daughter of Winter John Le Chasseur, a business director of Jersey, on 18 December 1930, at Jubbulpore. She was awarded the Kaisir I Hind medal in 1948 for services to the WVS in India. They had no children.

Major General MHP Sayers

[Brit.med.J., 1976, 1, 404; Lancet, 1976, 1, 374]

(Volume VII, page 515)

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