|Josep Trueta was born in Barcelona on October 27, 1897 , son of a busy middle class general practitioner , as were several of his ancestors. In fact, it was due to this long established family tradition that young Josep was persuaded by his father to read medicine, instead of being what he wanted to be: a painter. So, in 1921 he became a doctor of medicine of the University of Barcelona.
Although never politically involved, he was always a very firm Catalan to the end of his days. During the Civil War (1936-39) he developed a treatment for treating war wounds which he sadly had ample opportunity of testing as head of the Hospital de St.Pau in Barcelona, – and, mainly because of his dread of dictatorships of any colour, when the war ended, he left Spain, joining the thousands of exiles who fled to France. The repute of his treatment of war wounds had reached the U.K., and so, as soon as he arrived in France he was invited to London to lecture on it. His stay in the U.K., which was supposed to last 15 days, in fact lasted nearly 30 years.
Throughout World War II he worked unceasingly in the then Wingfield Morris Orthopaedic Hospital in Oxford (later renamed Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre) and lectured all over the country. By the end of the War, it was obvious that Franco was not going to be treated as an enemy, and so his wish of going back to Catalonia had to be postponed. He became Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1949, at the same time becoming a British subject. Upset that all Spaniards were put in the same basket without distinction, in 1946 he published the book "The Spirit of Catalonia" in the hope of making the existence of his beloved Catalonia known in the Anglo-Saxon world. Much later it was translated into Catalan and published in Mexico in 1950 and after Franco's death in 1977 in Catalonia, where so far there have been some 15 editions.
He was a born teacher, who left hundreds of pupils from all over the world who later, in their turn, became themselves teachers. Among his discoveries and studies perhaps the most important were the discovery of the double circulation of the kidney, osteoarthritis of the hip, poliomyelitis, bone growth, osteoporosis, etc. etc. But his idea that the origin of bone is the blood, which occupied his laboratory work towards the end of his Oxford days, he was never able to prove a hundred percent because of lack of laboratory space. From 1967 on and once returned to Barcelona, aged 70, no laboratory space was put at his disposal, despite many promises. This was to cause him great sorrow.
He was a member of most orthopaedic associations, had doctorates hon.causa of dozens of universities, was awarded medals, prizes etc but nothing compensated him from having had to leave his country – although he was the first to admit that, had it not been for the facilities awarded to him at Oxford, he would never have achieved what he did. One of his major realizations was to combine clinical with laboratory work under the same roof – something which he was able to do at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.
His beloved wife Amelia died in Barcelona in 1975 – as he did, 15 months later, in 1977.