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Thursday, November 2, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Anesthesiologist Bernard R. Fink, `a scholarly man'

Seattle Times staff reporter

Bernard Raymond Fink, a Seattle scientist whose devotion to anesthesiology brought him international respect and a role in upgrading the Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology in Park Ridge, Ill., loved all things intellectual.

Educated in England and South Africa, he exuded aristocracy. He spoke and wrote seven languages. His neat goatee and professorial tweeds underscored an already distinguished persona.

Love of poetry

He could as easily address molecular-mechanics researchers on the relationship between their specialty and anesthesiology as recite long poems by heart. He had brightened many family and collegial gatherings with recitations of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" and "A Child's Christmas in Wales."

"He basically was very cerebral, a scholarly man with few other hobbies," said daughter Susan Myers of Seattle. "His work was his pleasure."

Dr. Fink died Monday (Oct. 30) of kidney failure. He was 86.

He specialized in helping design breathing tubes for anesthetic procedures. He pioneered newer anesthetics such as lidocaine.

A past president of the Anesthesia History Association, he also was active in the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

"Ray Fink was very much respected by all the academic people in anesthesiology, and had an international reputation," said former colleague Lucien Morris.

Born in London in 1914, Dr. Fink grew up in Antwerp, Belgium.

He entered the University of London at 16, completing his medical studies in 1938. He served as a medical officer in South Africa during World War II, tending soldiers from Africa and Europe.

Emigrated to U.S.

In 1950, while directing a small mission-hospital in South Africa, he and his wife decided not to raise their family in an apartheid nation. They emigrated to the United States. He practiced anesthesiology and did research at Columbia University for the next 14 years.

In 1964, Dr. Fink became the director of anesthesia research at the University of Washington. He served as a professor until 1984, doing research thereafter.

"He was brilliant, but when he retired they gave him a ball of string," said Myers. "He also was known as being absent-minded. He thought that was quite funny."

During the past few decades he was involved in modernizing the Wood collection of books, audiovisual materials, equipment and artifacts. The library-museum, first housed in New York, is based on the private collection of Paul Wood.

Dr. Fink also worked at compiling autobiographies of leading anesthesiologists into books.

Other survivors include daughter Jean Moore, El Cerrito, Calif.; sisters Violet Rothenberg, Teaneck, N.J.; and Evelyn Reinhold, Israel; brother, Newton Fink, New Zealand; and five grandchildren.

Services have been held.

Carole Beers' e-mail address is cbeers@seattletimes.com.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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