Lives of the fellows

Abraham Freedman

b.17 April 1916 d.4 July 1999
MRCS LRCP(1939) MB BS Lond(1941) MRCP(1947) MD(1948) FRCP(1972)

'Binkie' Freedman, as he was always known, was a distinguished general physician at Hackney Hospital, London, with a special interest in arthritis. His father, a master tailor born in Galicia, and his mother, who hailed from a neighbouring village, came to England before the First World War. Binkie was the second of their three children. His older brother also qualified in medicine; he served in the RAMC and died in India during the war.

After schooling at the Davenant Foundation in Whitechapel, Freedman qualified from the London Hospital in 1939. His resident years were spent at the London, the Seaman's and Lewisham Hospitals. It was at the latter that he was assistant medical officer during the Blitz and from there that he published in 1943 his first paper describing an inhaler, a modified version of which is now in the possession of the Association of Anaesthetists, for the self-administration of Trilene-air analegsia in labour. He became neither an obstetrician nor an anaesthetist but the Freedman inhaler was in general use for two decades and typifies the creativity and ingenuity of an outstanding intellect.

He subsequently served in the RAF, reaching the rank of squadron leader and introduced mass radiography screening into the service.

After demobilization, he became senior medical registrar at Hackney Hospital and an SHMO in 1952. He continued in this anomalous post until finally appointed consultant physician in 1963 and it was here that he developed his lasting interest in rheumatology.

In 1952, together with Francis Bach, Freedman first described the beneficial anti-inflammatory effects of Mepacrine in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, but the use of Mepacrine was discontinued because of the associated yellow skin discolouration. In 1956 he published a controlled clinical trial of Chloroquine which caused significant improvement. Unfortunately the prolonged use of Chloroquine led to retinal damage in some patients as reported by him with Hobbs and Sorsby in 1959.

Binkie Freedman was a highly cultured man, patient, good tempered and totally reliable by nature. These qualities, combined with complete academic integrity, intellectual honesty and an enthusiasm curbed only by a highly developed critical faculty made him a great physician. He was abundantly capable of transmitting these standards to his juniors who were stimulated to pursue their own intellectual interests. A shy man and diffident about speaking in public, medicine was his whole life and he was deeply serious about it without being a bore.

He was a keen member of the Heberden Society, a lifelong fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and served as president of the London Jewish Hospital Medical Society from 1963 to 1964.

Outside medicine, he had few hobbies, but was a devoted family member and enjoyed music, books and the theatre. Religion did not play a major part in his life, but he was a member of the ethics committee of the Reformed Synagogues of Great Britain.

Freedman ran a successful private practice and counted many doctors and their families among his patients. He was also consultant to a pharmaceutical company.

His marriage in 1939 was all-important. His wife, Louise, to whom he was devoted, was highly intelligent, endowed with enormous empathy and provided him with the support and strength that he needed. She died in March 1999 and he died 100 days later from disseminated secondary adeno-carcinoma.

They had three children: a daughter who is a barrister and two sons, one a consultant endocrinologist and the other professor of biochemistry at Kent University. It was a matter of great pride to Binkie to have a son and a granddaughter who became members of the Royal College of Physicians, thus establishing a tradition through three generations.

Herbert Reiss

(Volume XI, page 208)

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