Orthopaedic surgeon;

Born: January 22 1939; Died: July 3, 2011.

In a distinguished career Professor Kenneth Rankin, who has died in Newcastle aged 72, was a widely respected orthopaedic surgeon who spent much of his carrier in Africa.

His work in South Africa brought him into direct conflict with the apartheid regime when his fiancée was detained, and their marriage was delayed for some years. Prof Rankin worked to improve the general medical education throughout Africa and this was recognised in 1994 when he was awarded the Lipmann Kessel Travelling Professorship to the Third World.

Kenneth Cunningham Rankin was born in Egypt where his father was stationed with the RAF. In 1942 the family returned to Edinburgh and he attended Tynecastle High School and Boroughmuir High School. Prof Rankin read medicine at Edinburgh University and in 1966 became registrar in paediatric surgery in Edinburgh. The following year he began his association with Africa: it was a continent which he served with unstinting grace and which he grew to love. At first he joined the Sibasa rural hospital in the Limpopo province of South Africa and other appointments followed in Soweto and Natal.

While providing care for those displaced by the apartheid regime, Prof Rankin met his future wife, the journalist and political activist Joyce Sikakane. The stringent apartheid laws forbade an inter-racial marriage and plans were made to get married outside South Africa. However Ms Sikakane was detained by the authorities and they were not married until 1974. In the intervening years Prof Rankin worked as registrar in orthopaedic surgery at Bridge of Earn.

He returned to Africa in 1971 as senior registrar in surgery and orthopaedics at the University Teaching Hospital of Lusaka in Zambia. At a chance meeting he was reunited with his fiancée who had been released and exiled from South Africa. In 1975 he became lecturer in orthopaedic surgery at Edinburgh University: a post, with his wide medical experience, he brought much distinction. In 1977 Prof Rankin and his family moved to Dundee where he was senior lecturer with a special interest in paediatric orthopaedics.

The lure of Africa never left him and in 1980 he worked at the Central Hospital in Maputo. A greater number of doctors was sorely needed as at Bulawo Prof Rankin was the only orthopaedic consultant for a population of approximately three million.

He was much involved with the World Orthopaedic Concern where his work at Themba Hospital was championed by a speaker who said, “Professor Ken Rankin had put immense effort into both hospitals over the years with regards to all matters including staffing and instrumentation. It was very obvious that he was held in very high regard by all his staff.”

In 1992 he again returned to Scotland to become a consultant at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and then at Law Hospital in Carluke, Lanarkshire, although he returned to visit the new Republic of South Africa in 1995 where he was appointed professor of and head of department of orthopaedics at Kalafong Hospital, University of Pretoria. For two years, from 2009, he was locum consultant at hospitals in Elgin, Edinburgh and Dumfries but last year was taken ill while operating at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. Acute myeloid leukaemia was diagnosed and although he continued to practise a relapse earlier this year forced his retirement.

He was a keen hillwalker and sailor and worked on behalf of the anti-apartheid movement. He was awarded an OBE in 2002 (“For services to Orthopaedics in Africa”) and was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

He is survived by his wife Joyce and their five children.