Norman Bethune

Canadian stamp Bethune

Date of issue: March 2, 1990
Printer: Canadian Bank Note Company
Design: Jean Morin and Wanda Lewicka
Artwork: Liu Xiangping

Norman Bethune

Norman Bethune was born in 1890 in Gravenhurst, Ontario. His medical studies were interrupted by WWI when he enlisted as a stretcher-bearer with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. Following a shrapnel wound, he returned to Canada and completed his medical degree at the University of Toronto in 1916. He developed tuberculosis in 1926, necessitating a stay for a year at the Trudeau Sanatorium in New York. Following his recovery, he worked as a thoracic surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal from 1928 to 1936.

Bethune’s professional life was marked by a strong sense of social responsibility. In Canada, he provided free medical care to the needy and proposed the introduction of universal healthcare. He traveled to China in 1937, where he was instrumental in establishing medical services during the Sino-Japanese war. He also performed countless emergency battlefield operations, indiscriminate of side. He died in China of sepsis contracted while operating on the battlefield in 1939.

The Stamp

The stamps – the first joint issue by China with another country – commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bethune’s birth. One shows a mustached Bethune in profile and operating on the battlefield in China. The other shows a younger man, most likely operating at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Canada. The first-day covers – one issued in each country and each with both Chinese and Canadian postmarks – feature a line drawing of Bethune’s Chinese operation scene that differs slightly from the one on the stamp.

First-day cover Bethune Canada-China joint issue


First-day cover Bethune on blue background



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