Professor Meinhard Classen breathed his last on October 6, 2019 at 83 years of age. Born on August 12, 1936, he completed his medical education at the Universities of Bonn, Freiburg, and Vienna and subsequently worked at universities in Erlangen, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Munich. He received honorary doctorates from several countries in Europe. Professor Classen was awarded the Schindler award by the European Society of Gastroenterology, and either founded or contributed to several endoscopy societies and organizations, including serving a term as the Vice-President of WEO–OMED (1990–1997). He was the Secretary-General of the World Gastroenterology Organization and a founder member of the International Digestive Cancer Alliance. He served as Editor of the journal Endoscopy and on the editorial boards of several highly reputed journals. He has published many scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and was the editor or author of several books on endoscopy.

When endoscopy was in its infancy, he carried out pioneering work in therapeutic endoscopy, being one of the few people to performed endoscopic cholangiopancreatography (as it was known then). Throughout his career and until his death Professor Classen continued to be a role model for many. He was successful in his roles as a therapeutic endoscopist, clinician, scientist-teacher, and critical thinker who genuinely tried with passion to make the world a better place. Of all the things that he did in his life, some will be remembered for their particular distinction:

On June 6, 1973 he performed the first endoscopic biliary sphincterotomy with a snare papillotome (the Erlangen papillotome), developed by his friend and colleague, Dr Ludwig Demling. This paved the way for all the therapeutic ERCP that is performed worldwide today.

During his later years he worked hard on the scientific evaluation of digestive cancers and worked with physicians and scientists from China in initiating the study that evaluated the role of H. pylori eradication with regard to gastric cancers.

Professor Classen was an altruist, committed to spreading his knowledge and expertise to the developing parts of the world. He worked tirelessly to generate resources, helping endoscopists in countries such as Tanzania and Nepal to set up endoscopy units. He personally supervised and trained the staff so that quality care could be provided to the people in those parts of the world.

With his death, the endoscopy community has lost a great scientist, teacher, innovator, advisor, and friend. Professor Classen is survived by his wife, Lore.

We at WEO would like to continue his legacy by advancing endoscopy to prevent and treat diseases of the digestive tract.


Dr D Nageshwar Reddy


Past President, WEO


Nalini M Guda


Editor, WEO Newsletter