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Robert Milton Zollinger

Born 1903
Died 1992

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American surgeon, born September 4, 1903, Millersport, Ohio; died 1992.

Biography of Robert Milton Zollinger

Robert Milton Zollinger was born in Millersport, Ohio, and grew up on his family's farm. Already as a boy he proved himself unusually industrious, establishing a thriving business using his pony and a cart. He originally wanted to attend West Point, but changed to medicine, and graduated M.D. at Ohio State University in 1927. After the completion of his surgical training he was appointed assistant professor of Harvard Medical School. He subsequently worked with Elliot Carr Cutler (1888-1947) at the Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland, where one of his jobs was to classify Cutler's collection of brain tumours. He served his intenship at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, before going back to Western reserve for his residency, in 1929. From 1939 he was an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, serving under Cutler, who was then Moseley Professor of Surgery. Together they published the first of seven editions of the now famous Atlas of Surgical Operations.

During World War II Zollinger served with the Harvard Unit in the Medical Corps of the US Army in Ireland, cultivating roses besides his official duties, and rising to commander of the 5th General Hospital and the rank of colonel. He earned the Legion of Merit Award, for the development of mobile surgical teams, and Battle Stars for Normandy, Northern France and Rhineland.

After the war Zollinger returned to Harvard, but in 1947 he became professor and chairman of the department of surgery, Ohio State University and occupied this post until he retired with emeritus status in 1974. Zollinger, respected by his peers, feared by his students and loved by his patients, was president of several professional bodies, including the American Surgical Association, the American Board of Surgery, the American College of Surgeons – as well as the American Rose Society. He has received numerous honours and awards. He has published more than 340 articles, mainly in the field of gastro-intestinal surgery. Despite his busy schedule Zollinger was the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Surgery from 1958 to 1986.

    “They should write on my tombstone: ‘teacher, surgeon, soldier and farmer.’ And my wife may remember that she says I’m an amusing fellow to live with.”

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