Professor Erwin W. Morscher, MD, died on April 28, 2008, at seventy-eight years of age, from complications of pancreatic cancer. He was esteemed internationally as a great teacher, investigator, and clinician, and he was influential in advancing the field of orthopaedic surgery through his leadership roles in numerous professional organizations.
He began his postgraduate career in 1954 at the Pediatric Surgery Clinic of the University of Basel Hospital. In 1957 and 1958 he worked at the Karolinska Sjukhuset in Stockholm with Professor Friberg, and from 1958 to 1961 with Professor Francillon at the Balgrist University Hospital Orthopedic Clinic in Zürich. In 1962, he returned to Basel and remained there, working first as a senior surgeon with Professor Taillard and later with Professor Chapchal. In 1967 he was appointed by Professor Martin Allgöwer to be the chief surgeon of the Orthopedic Traumatology Section of the Basel Cantonal Hospital. In 1971 he was appointed as professor and chair of the University of Basel Orthopedic Clinic, and he held that position until assuming emeritus status in 1995. In 1976 and 1977, he was dean of the University of Basel Faculty of Medicine.
As an emeritus professor, Dr. Morscher was able to devote more time to research. He served on the Board of Directors of the Hardy and Otto Frey-Zünd Foundation and was largely responsible for the founding and operation of the Laboratory for Orthopedic Biomechanics at the University of Basel.
His clinical and experimental research resulted in the publication of 450 papers. He received eight science prizes and was an international visiting professor eight times. Within Switzerland and abroad, he was a member of thirty-six professional associations, including sixteen awards of honorary membership. He served in leadership capacities in many of them, including the German Orthopaedic Association (president, 1977-1978); the Swiss Orthopaedic Association (president, 1982-1984); SICOT (the International Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology) (national representative of Switzerland, 1982-1990); the Leopoldina Academy of Natural Scientists (chairman of the Orthopedic Section, 1992-2002); and EFORT (the European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology) (president, 1996-1997).
From 1972 through 1997, he was coeditor of the journal Der Orthopäde, and an editor of Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery until 2002. He also served on the advisory boards of eight other journals.
In Switzerland, he was a pioneer in the introduction of arthroscopy and a leader in the advancement of scoliosis surgery. His innovations in the areas of hip replacement and spine surgery continue to influence current practice today. He will be remembered as one of the last surgeons who were masters in almost all of the fields of orthopaedics.
But professional accomplishments alone do not tell the whole story of Erwin Morscher. He was an imposing presence, yet a gentle man. His warm smile and engaging eyes elicited a sense in others that they were in the company of a caring friend. His presence filled a room with vitality. He lived life with enormous energy. He was an accomplished mountaineer, having scaled some of the tallest and most challenging peaks in Europe and South America. At home, he loved to hike, tend to his garden, and be in the company of his wife Ruth, his children, and his grandchildren. His family and the international orthopaedic community have lost a good and vital man who will not soon be forgotten.