Alabama Academy of Honor


Basil Isaac Hirschowitz

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1991, and updated in 2013.



Basil Isaac Hirschowitz was born in Bethal, South Africa, on May 29, 1925, the son of Morris and Dorothy Hirschowitz.

Basil Hirschowitz received that which we know in the United States as grammar and high school education in his native community. His undergraduate work was done at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa. where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in physiology.

Basil Hirschowitz also received his early medical education at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. It was from this institution that he earned M.B. and B.Ch. degrees in 1947. He received Postdoctoral training from Witwatersrand University Medical, earning an M.D. degree in 1954, and was admitted as a member of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh) in 1953, and as a member of the Royal College of Physicians (London) in 1953, to both of which he was later elected Fellow.

Dr. Hirschowitz's first opportunity to pass on to others his accumulated knowledge in the sciences occurred when he became instructor in physiology at the University of Witwatersrand during 1944-1945. From 1947 to 1949 he was intern and resident in medicine and surgery at Johannesburg General Hospital.

His first assignment after arriving in the United States was that of instructor and research associate in gastroenterology at the University of Michigan.

He first came to the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 1959 where he was Associate Professor of Medicine until 1964. Since that time he filled many responsibilities, including Professor of Medicine and Physiology and Biophysics.

Dr. Hirschowitz was the author of, individually or with associates, some 300 published papers dealing with scientific subjects in the area of the healing arts.

The first flexible Fiberoptic Endoscope was devised by Dr. Hirschowitz and his associates. His peers said this invention revolutionized this area of health care. His original invention is now in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Among the many awards he was honored with are The Schindler Medal, The Charles F. Kettering Prize presented by the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, and The University of Alabama School of Medicine Distinguished Faculty Lecturer.

Although Dr. Hirschowitz's many accomplishments in the field of the healing arts have been recognized and are impressive, one of the latest and among the most prestigious was that of being named in 1990 as Honorary Fellow, the Royal Science of Medicine.

Dr. Basil Isaac Hirschowitz became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1961. He was married to the former Barbara Burns, and they were the parents of two sons and two daughters and have one grandchild.

Dr. Hirschowitz indeed reached the pinnacle of academic medicine as a teacher, basic scientist, and clinician.

Dr. Hirschowitz died on January 19, 2013.