Edith Korner
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Edith Korner
Edith Körner

Edith Korner.jpg
Edita Leah Löwy

10 July 1921
Died17 August 2000(2000-08-17) (aged 79)
Other namesEdita Laner
OccupationMagistrate and NHS reformer
Stephan Körner m. 1944
ChildrenThomas Körner, Ann M. Körner
AwardsLLD (Honorary, 1986)

Edith Körner, CBE (10 July 1921 - 17 August 2000) was a British magistrate and reformer of the National Health Service. She was the wife of the philosopher Stephan Körner and mother of the mathematician Thomas Körner and the biochemist, writer and translator Ann M. Körner.



Edita Leah Löwy was born in Znojmo, Czechoslovakia, the daughter of a corn miller, on 10 July 1921.[1] She travelled to the United Kingdom as a refugee in 1939, after the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. Her family remained behind, with only her brother and several cousins surviving the war. (In 1938/1939, her father changed the family name to Laner in a vain attempt to deceive the Nazis into thinking that he and his family were not Jewish.) She arrived with no money, speaking four languages - Czech, German, Italian and French but little English. Among other jobs, she worked briefly for Reuters.

During the war, she met Stephan Körner, a fellow Czech refugee, who was studying for his doctorate in philosophy at Cambridge; the couple married in London in 1944. After the end of the war and Stephan's release from the Czech army, the couple settled in Bristol where Stephan took up an assistant lectureship at the university.[1][2]

The Körners had two children, mathematician Thomas William Körner and Ann Körner (who later married Sidney Altman, a Canadian molecular biologist, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989).[3][4][5]

In the late summer of 2000, Mrs. Körner was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, which had advanced to such a stage that she was given only weeks to live. The couple would soon after be found dead together by a physician on a routine visit to their home in Bristol.[6] Their deaths, which, occurred on 17 August 2000,[7][8][3] were ruled suicides by the coroner who stated that he was "sure beyond reasonable doubt that both these persons intended to take their own lives."[9]


Edith and her husband Stephan on their wedding day in 1944

Not content simply to stay at home raising a family, she became a member of the committee overseeing the two local long-stay psychiatric hospitals in the 1950s. This was a fast-changing time for psychiatric medicine, with new drug treatments and changing public attitudes allowing new methods of treatment and care, and Mrs Körner (she never allowed her colleagues to call her by her first name) argued strongly - and successfully - to restructure and reform the sector to take full advantage of these developments.

She was appointed a local magistrate in 1966, and would later become the first woman - and the first immigrant - to chair the board in Bristol (from 1987 to 1990). She chaired the bench during the poll tax upheavals of the late 1980s - some 20,000 people in Bristol refused to pay the charge - maintaining a judicial impartiality despite a strong personal and political objection to the tax. She argued strongly for a clear separation of the judiciary and the executive, and for the court system to be as streamlined and efficient as possible.

By 1976 she had become the chair of the regional health authority for the south-west, gaining a reputation as an informed and intelligent commentator on health-service issues.[1] In 1967 she had studied the use of computers in the health service for the South Western Regional Hospital Board (as it then was), and in 1980 she was asked to chair a full-scale national review of the way information was generated and handled in the NHS.[10]

The Körner Committee studied the matter for four years and produced six major sets of recommendations, all of which were adopted and put into action by the government.[1] The committee's work paved the way for a full-scale computerization of the health service; for the next twenty years, the statistical information used to monitor the work of the NHS was known as "Körner Data".


  1. ^ a b c d "Edith Körner". The Guardian. 30 August 2000. Retrieved . Edith Körner ... was an influential figure in the development of the information and statistics system used by the National Health Service. ...
  2. ^ Shepherdson, John (2002). "Stephan Körner 1913 - 2000" (PDF). Proceedings of the British Academy. 115: 279. While he was at Cambridge he met his wife, Edith Laner, at a social gathering of Czech emigres in London. Edith, known as Diti to friends and family, was born in Czechoslovakia, daughter of a prosperous corn miller. She came to England in 1939 as a schoolgirl, but her parents, like Stephan's, stayed in Czechoslovakia and died in concentration camps. She used her command of English, Czech, German, French, and Italian to monitor foreign broadcasts for a news agency. Company policy forbade the employment of women but her services were so valuable that her sex was concealed from upper management until her marriage and subsequent pregnancy made this impossible. She also supplemented her income by teaching English to Czech refugees She then in two years obtained an honours degree in economics at the London School of Economics. She claimed to have never attended a lecture, because she was too busy teaching to support herself; she passed all her examinations just by studying the reading list. Stephan and Diti were married in 1944 when Stephan was back on leave but were separated almost immediately afterwards when he was recalled to take part in the campaign after the D-Day landings.
  3. ^ a b "Yale Bulletin and Calendar". archives.news.yale.edu. 15 September 2000. Retrieved . Stephan Körner ..died at his home in Bristol, England, on Aug. 17. Professor Körner, who was 86, committed suicide with his wife, Edith Körner, 79, who had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness ... Edith, had served as chief magistrate of the City of Bristol and chaired the Körner Commission for computerization of the National Health Service. The Körners are survived by their daughter and son-in-law, Ann Altman Ph.D. '74 and Yale scientist Sidney Altman of Hamden, Connecticut; their son and daughter-in law, Tom and Wendy Körner of Cambridge, England; and four grandchildren.
  4. ^ Johnson, Daniel (2000-08-23). "Whose life is it, anyway?". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved . ..their son, the Cambridge mathematician Tom Körner..
  5. ^ "Son's tribute to suicide pact parents". Daily Record (Scotland). August 23, 2000. Retrieved – via Questia. Yesterday, their son, Dr Tom Korner, said: "What happened is very sad but it could not be termed a tragedy.
  6. ^ "News In Brief - Academic and wife found dead". The Daily Telegraph. 2000-08-22. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved .
  7. ^ "Tribute to Professor". www.bris.ac.uk. 19 September 2000. Retrieved . The University regrets to announce the death of Professor Stephan Körner, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, and his wife Edith, who died together at home on Thursday 17 August. ... Edith Körner, known as Diti, was ... a well-known figure around the University and her work with the Bristol Magistrates and other social causes in the city was recognised by the award of a CBE. She was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws in July 1986.
  8. ^ "Dear Weekend". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019. My parents did indeed die on August 17, 2000... Ann M Altman (née Korner)
  9. ^ Paul Forrest, Coroner's Court, Bristol UK, October 18, 2000
  10. ^ Korner, E (8 December 1984). "Improved information for the NHS". BMJ. 289 (6458): 1635-1636. doi:10.1136/bmj.289.6458.1635. PMC 1443857. PMID 6439353.

General References

  • "Edith Korner". In the Times, 23 August 2000.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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