Society for Pediatric Pathology

In Memory of Our Departed SPP Members

Dr. Kurt Aterman

It is with great sadness that the University community is informed of the death of Dr. Kurt Aterman, former Dalhousie professor of Pathology, on July 28, 2002. He was 88.

Born in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1913, he graduated from medical school in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1938. After the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, he fled to the United Kingdom. He requalified as a doctor in Belfast in 1943. After that, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Britain and India until the end of the Second World War.

In 1957, Dr. Aterman immigrated to Canada with his young family to take up the directorship of laboratories at the Children's Hospital and an Assistant Professorship in Pathology at Dalhousie. In 1961, he went to the United States where he worked for six years until his return to Halifax in 1967. He then served as Professor at Dalhousie and pathologist for the former Izaak Walton Killam Hospital for Children until 1979. From 1979 to 1986, he took up the position of Director, Regional Laboratory of Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton, N.B.. He remained an Honorary Research Associate and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of New Brunswick from 1984 until his death.

Dr. Aterman had an unwavering commitment and devotion to his family, science and the history of science. In a 50-year career, he wrote and published more than 140 papers and articles, which were published in a wide array of publications. He was an active member of numerous medical associations. His passion for his family was expressed through self-sacrifice, humor, wit and an immense pride in the achievement of his wife, children and grandchildren.

He is profoundly missed by his wife, Rita, three sons, three grandchildren, and two nephews.

Funeral services were held July 29, 2002 at 2 p.m. in Shaar Shalom Synagogue, 1981 Oxford Street.

Donations in memory of Dr. Aterman may be made to the B'nai Brith Foundation or to Doctors Without Borders.

Online condolences may be made to the family at:

Dear Members,

We are saddened again, this time by the passing of Dr. Kurt Aterman. I did not have the privilege of personally meeting Dr. Aterman, but had the pleasure of reading many of his illuminating and insightful contributions, including to our Journal. They were written with such clarity, and had much to tell us that will help us in our practices today. I particularly enjoyed his biographical papers about individuals many of us would have never known without Dr Aterman's efforts.

It is my hope that many of our membership will honor Dr. Aterman's memory with contributions to the B'nai Brith Foundation or to Doctors Without Borders.

Henry Krous
President, SPP

Kurt Aterman was a scholar who wrote detailed and critical reviews of the historical literature, often using his knowledge of languages to re-read the originals and correct errors that had crept in. His 75th Birthday was celebrated by the SPP with the publication of a previously unpublished review of his from the Pediatric Pathology Club, 1966.(Neonatal hepatitis - A viral Disease? A Historical Perspective. Pediatr Pathol 1989;9:243-250). His bibliography covers most topics familiar to pediatric and perinatal pathologists, including a 1984 paper on Caudal Dysplasia with J Philip Welch (Pediatr Pathol 1984;2;313-327).

He also published "Pronephros and Mesonephros - Cohnheim revisited" in Pediatr Pathol 1990;10:1021-1032. His most recent historical paper was published this year!

I enjoyed talking with him, he was always interesting, and also sounded exactly like all my uncles with his middle-European accented, but perfect English. A scholar and a real gentleman.

Ron Jaffe

The news about Kurt's death was a terrible shock, as I had a very pleasant phone conversation with him late last week. He was helping me with a translation of some very difficult passages in a work by JF Meckel the younger.

My contact with Kurt began many years ago when I was asked to review a paper he had submitted to Pediatric Pathology concerning the pronephros and Cohnheim, and my comments on the paper led to a dialogue concerning our mutual interests in history of biology and especially embryology that continued until last week. Over the past year I have been collecting material from Kurt concerning his amazing life and career. He was a small man with a very large cerebrum and a soul to match. Dr. Pinar's sketch gives a hint of the challenges faced by a young Jew growing up in Czechoslovakia, receiving his medical training as Hitler was approaching, then the fortunate move to London, arriving with his sister, knowing nobody, having no money, and not speaking any English. Through good fortune and very hard work, within a few years he was an honours graduate in medicine in Belfast. He became interested in Pediatric Pathology and spent a year as fellow with Edith Potter prior to moving to Halifax.

Kurt was a classical European scholar and humanist. His deep affection for music led to several excellent biographical papers on Mozart. His respect for medical traditions led to a fine numismatic collection-perhaps his proudest possession-of medals depicting great names in medicine and science. Master of many languages, generous with his time and knowledge, and a fine human being that only a few of us in the world of Pediatric Pathology had the privilege of knowing well. Nancy and I had looked forward to a chance to visit him and his charming and brilliant wife Rita sometime in the next year, but now that is not to be. His was a remarkably challenging life lived nobly and productively. His loss creates a large empty space in my heart.

Bruce Beckwith

I would echo Bruce's comments. Dr. Aterman was always very helpful to me when approached for advice and assistance.

I first met him in 1973 , at the Washington DC meeting of the then PPC, and he was very kind in welcoming me to the membership of what was then a small Club. He remained a source of encouragement over the next two decades and more. His oral history should be very interesting, as I believe Tom Stocker tried to interview him at the Toronto 1998 meeting.

Derek de Sa