Sir Ludwig GUTTMANN, frs (1899–1980)


63 Lonsdale Road, Oxford

Ludwig Guttmann was born at Tost, Upper Silesia, to Bernhard Guttmann, an innkeeper, and his wife Dorothea. He studied medicine, graduating from Freiburg University in 1924. His professional career began at Breslau where he started to specialise in neurology and neurosurgery. In 1933 when the National Socialists came to power in Germany, as a Jewish doctor he was forced to leave his post and transfer to the Jewish hospital in Breslau, becoming medical director in 1937.

In 1938 after the events of Kristallnacht, when he was sent on official medical assignment to Portugal to tend to a friend of the dictator Salazar, he seized the opportunity to escape to England, obtaining visas for his wife and two small children with help of CARA (Council for Assisting Refugee Academics).

63 Lonsdale Road, Oxford


The family was welcomed to Oxford where they were housed at first in the Master’s Lodgings at Balliol, then found a house at 63 Lonsdale Road (right), where they lived 1939–1951.


Guttmann first took up a post at the Nuffield Department of Neurosurgery at the Radcliffe Infirmary. In 1943 he was recruited by Dr George Riddoch of the London Hospital to head a new centre at Stoke Mandeville dedicated to the rehabilitation of spinal injuries patients who hitherto had virtually no chance of survival. A major part of his therapy was to get them out of their beds to become as active as possible. He conceived the idea of wheelchair sports and in 1948 to coincide with the Olympic Games he created a competition at Stoke Mandeville for wheelchair basketball, table tennis and archery and invited disabled ex-servicemen from Surrey to compete with the hospital team.

From that point on Guttmann was the driving force for a more ambitious vision for paraplegic sports. By 1952 overseas teams were competing annually at Stoke Mandeville. In 1956 The International Olympics Committee recognised the event and official paralympic games were held every fourth year. From 1988 the Paralympics began to be held at the same venues as the Olympic Games, thus conferring equal status.

Meanwhile Guttmann continued to lead the work at the National Spinal Injuries Unit, Stoke Mandeville, where medics came from all over the world to train, and new centres were created in Spain, Germany and Israel. He completely changed the outlook for paraplegics and those with other disabilities. He was much loved by patients and staff and affectionately known as Poppa Guttmann. He was knighted in 1966 and received many other honours at home and abroad, including Fellowship of the Royal Society. A statue of him was unveiled at Stoke Mandeville in 2012 to coincide with the London Olympics.


The plaque was unveiled at 63 Lonsdale Road, Oxford on 29 April 2023 by Mrs Eva Loeffler OBE, Sir Ludwig’s daughter, who also gave the address. She was accompanied by other family members. Among others attending were Cllr James Fry, Lord Mayor of Oxford, Cllr Susanna Pressel, Chair of Oxfordshire CC, Dr Allison Graham of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and representatives of the National Heritage Paralympic Trust, the Poppa Guttmann Trust, and Oxford Jewish Heritage.

Photographs taken at the unveiling:

Speech made by Eva Loeffler at the unveiling ceremony (PDF)

Guttman blue plaque

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


Pioneer of rehabilitation
for spinal injuries patients
Father of the Paralympic Games

Lived here

Oxford Civic Society

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


Email: oxfordshireblueplaques@gmail.com