Obituary: Professor John Forfar, 96

Professor John Forfar. Pic: comp
Professor John Forfar. Pic: comp
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PROFESSOR John Forfar, a leading figure in establishing the Neonatal Special Care unit at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, has died in Edinburgh, aged 96.

Born in Glasgow on November, 16, 1916, he was educated at Perth Academy and the University of St Andrews, where he qualified in medicine in 1941.

His undergraduate career was distinguished by successes in the Officers Training Corps, on the cricket field, and in meeting Isobel Fernback, his wife-to-be and lifelong companion.

He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1942 and undertook commando training before placement as medical officer to 47 Commando Royal Marines.

On D-Day, they landed on Gold Beach in Normandy with the objective of taking Port-en-Bessin.

In November 1944, the commandos were involved in the assault on Walcheren in the Netherlands, a strategic objective in opening up the Belgian sea port of Antwerp. The capture was described by US president Dwight Eisenhower as “one of the most gallant and aggressive actions of the war”.

Prof Forfar was awarded an immediate Military Cross, his citation reading: “Throughout the first three days of the battle for Walcheren, when 82 ranks were wounded, many of whom were recovered by this officer personally with the greatest heroism, the courage and devotion to duty of this officer were above praise.”

After the war, he completed his training and, in 1950, he moved to Edinburgh, taking on consultant responsibility for children and the newborn in the Edinburgh and Fife areas.

He later took a leading role in the creation, in 1968, of the neonatal special care unit in the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion of the Royal Infirmary, now in the new Royal Infirmary. With Sir John Brotherston and Professor JW Farquhar, he established the Edinburgh School of Community Paediatrics.

In spite of his busy clinical workload, he made time for research and to publish studies, notably on infection of the newborn. In 1958, he was awarded an MD with commendation from St Andrews.

This dedication to research and writing proved to be the beginning of an outstanding academic career in paediatrics, during which he published more than 150 papers.

Reluctant to discuss his war years, many of Prof Forfar’s colleagues were unaware of his service.

In the twilight of his life, he moved to a care home with Isobel, whose last days he shared. Fiercely independent, he returned to his beloved flat in Ravelston after her death.

He is survived by sons David and Colin, his daughter, Joan, three grandchildren, one great-grandchild and a host of friends privileged to have known him.