About Michael Gelfand
Michael Gelfand was born to Lithuanian parents on 26 December 1913 in Wynberg, Cape Town, South Africa, and died on 12 July 1985, in Harare, Zimbabwe.
'Among the many honours bestowed upon Michael is that of Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester. This is a Knighthood bestowed by the Pope in recognition of his work among the people in the back of the country connected with the mission stations.
A devout Jew who always wore a tzitzit, Michael was a prolific author of books about the 'Shona' people of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. His book Tropical Medicine was the accepted authority in this field.
Parents were Lewis Gelfand and Ethel Zalkoff (Salkow). The family consisted of Michael, Bennie, Abraham (died at age of two) Lily and Freda. Abraham is buried in the old Maitland Cemetery in Cape Town.
Michael was married to Esther Kollenberg on 26 January 1937 in Bulawayo. They had three children:
- b 1 Joy Phyliss - born 29 October 1939 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
- b 2 Isobelle - born 7 January 1942 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
- b 3 Anne -born 20 March 1944 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
After qualifying as MD in South Africa and working there and in England, in 1939 Michael joined the then Southern Rhodesia Medical Service as a Physician, Pathologist and Radiologist. He had married Esther Kollenberg from Bulawayo whom he had met at Cape Town University.
Soon after the birth of their first child they joined Esther's parents in Rhodesia. Once in government service Michael quickly gained a reputation by being the only doctor to diagnose correctly the illness of the wife of the Head of the Medical Services!
In 1955, together with Dr Joseph Ritchken, he founded the Central African Journal of Medicine and remained its co-editor for many years.
Joining the then University of Rhodesia in 1962 as founding Professor of African Medicine, he was Professor and Head of the Department of Medicine until his retirement in 1977, and thereafter, Emeritus Professor and Senior Clinical Research Fellow.
Michael Gelfand was a prolific writer: 330 articles and monographs in various journals on topics renaging from medicine, ethics, history and religion, to Shona custom, religion and culture. He wrote more than 30 books, amongst them The Sick African and Livingstone, the Doctor.
Michael Gelfand is remembered in Zimbabwe with admiration and affection. Esther Gelfand passed away in Harare on 20 June 2001'.
The Michael Gelfand Medical Research Foundation was established in 1986 in memory of the late Professor Michael Gelfand OBE, CBE, Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester, MD (Cape Town) FRCP, DPH (London), DMR, Hon. LLD (Zimbabwe and Birmingham), Hon DLitt (Cape Town).
The initial material was contributed by Bernard Unterhalter (July 2004) Updated by Yuri Smulansky (September 2011)