© Patrick Sherlock


Henry Marsh   [ UK ]

The British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh was born in Oxford in 1950 as the youngest of four children. His father was the law reformer Norman Stayner Marsh, while his mother came from Germany and after being denounced by the authorities for »anti-Nazi statements«, fled to England, where she married in 1939. Henry Marsh’s parents helped found Amnesty International in 1961. After attending the Dragon School in Oxford and the Westminster School in London, Henry Marsh studied economics, politics, and philosophy in Oxford, then switched to medicine at the Royal Free Medical School in London. Marsh began his career as a neurosurgeon at St George’s University Hospital London. After performing his first brain surgery as an assistant physician, he realized that this was calling. »What could be finer, I thought, than to be a neurosurgeon? The operation involved the brain, the mysterious substrate of all thought and feeling, of all that was important in human life – a mystery, it seemed to me, as great as the stars at night and the universe around us.« Marsh specialized in the treatment of brain tumors and performed a total of approximately 8,000 surgeries during his career. Marsh also served as Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. In the 1990s, he established a foundation in Ukraine, where he operated mainly on people who otherwise could not expect to receive medical help.

In 2014, Marsh published the first book about his work as a neurosurgeon, »Do No Harm«. The book became an international bestseller. It has been translated into thirty-five languages and sold over a million copies in the UK. The book is divided into twenty-five chapters, each dedicated to the fate of a patient. As a doctor, Marsh cured and saved the lives of many people. He did not like meeting patients before he operated on them because he wanted to hide his fear and anxiety. Marsh is aware of his limitations and the possibility of failing: »Above everything else, I have to know when to stop. It is often better to let the disease run its natural course and not to operate at all.« In doing so, he fundamentally questions the myth of the »gods in white«. He was awarded the »PEN Ackerley Prize« for his work in 2015.

In 2017, a sequel was published under the title »Admission. A Life in Brain Surgery«.

There are also two documentary films about Henry Marsh’s work: »Your Life in Their Hands« (2003) and »The English Surgeon« (2007), which won an »Emmy« television prize in the US. Marsh was named a Fellow by the Royal College of Surgeons in 1984 and Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010. He retired as a neurosurgeon in 2015. He lives in London.




Um Leben und Tod:

Ein Hirnchirurg erzählt vom Heilen, Hoffen und Scheitern
München, 2015
[Ü: Katrin Behringer]

Admission. A Life in Brain Surgery
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
London, 2017