Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Norman Bethune

National Film Board of Canada

Virtually unknown in his homeland during his lifetime, Bethune received international recognition when Chairman Mao Zedong of the People's Republic of China published his essay entitled In Memory of Norman Bethune (in Chinese: 紀念白求恩), which documented the final months of the doctor's life in China. Almost the entire Chinese population knew about the essay which had become required reading in China's elementary schools during China's Cultural Revolution (1966–76).

Mao concluded in that essay: "We must all learn the spirit of absolute selflessness from him. With this spirit everyone can be very helpful to each other. A person's ability may be great or small, but if he/she has this spirit, he/she is already noble-minded and pure, a person of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a person who is of value to the people."


  1. Bethune was one of my heroes. I met many of his friends thru my association with the Canada-China Friendship Assoc.in Montreal in the late 60s. They shared many reminiscences about him with me. He ran a free medical clinic for some time in east-end Montreal open each Saturday. He also invented some specialized surgical equipment. A nurse who worked with him told me some nurses were terrified of him because he brooked no incompetence in life or death surgical situations. I imagine many of them are now deceased but there's likely a few left.

  2. The free clinic was funded by Bethune and friends with whatever they could beg, borrow or steal.