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Biographical entry Stephens, John Pendered (1919 - 2004)

MRCS 1942; FRCS 1948; MA MB BChir Cambridge 1947; MChir 1953; LRCP 1942.

29 March 1919
Northamptonshire, UK
11 April 2004
General surgeon


John Stephens was a general surgeon at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. He was born on 29 March 1919 in Northamptonshire, where his father was an engineer with farming interests. Educated at Stowe School, his scholastic achievements were complimented by a flair for sport, particularly rugby. At Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, he read natural sciences, played for the University XV (winning a wartime blue) and represented the University at tennis. Clinical training followed at St Bartholomew's Hospital during the Blitz, where he captained a strong Bart's rugby XV. He held house appointments with J Basil Hume at Friern Barnet, one of the hospitals used by Bart's during its evacuation from London.

On joining the RAMC in 1943, he served as regimental medical officer to the 1st Battalion Sierra Leone African Regiment in Sierra Leone, Burma and India. His release testimonial described him as "…a first class officer who fully understands the African soldier and as a result exerts an excellent influence over the whole battalion".

Returning to civilian life in 1947, he passed the Cambridge qualifying examination, followed by the FRCS a year later. Further surgical experience was gained as a supernumerary registrar with J Basil Hume and Alan Hunt at Bart's, during which time he continued to play rugby for Bart's, Blackheath, Northampton and Kent.

In 1952, John went to Norwich as a surgical registrar to the Norfolk and Norwich and allied hospitals, including the Jenny Lind Hospital for Children and the West Norwich Hospital. This widened an already good general surgical base, to which he added thoracic and cardiac procedures. He gained his masters in surgery in 1953 and in 1955 he was appointed as a consultant general surgeon in Norwich. He developed an interest in breast diseases and, as an enthusiastic protagonist of immunology and the use of BCG therapy for breast cancer, was ahead of his times. Sadly, he never published his results.

He was a modest, charming man, with an excellent sense of humour. Despite having large hands, he was a gifted surgeon - those working with him admired his all round ability and remarkable clinical judgement.

Norfolk suited his balanced life, combining medical practice with his outside pursuits. Ever a countryman at heart, he loved his thatched house at Bergh Apton, with its large garden, greenhouses and trees. He was a golfer, fly fisherman, ornithologist, skier and an excellent shot, rearing pheasants for his own shoot. Sailing was an abiding interest. In retirement he kept his boat on the west coast of Scotland.

Retiring in 1984, his last few years were dogged by immobility due to spinal stenosis. John died on 11 April 2004 at the age of 85, and is survived by his wife, Barbara, two daughters and a son.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2004 329 296, with portrait; information from T P H Stephens, T A Dudgeon, J Blaxill, A Batty Shaw and N A Green; Eastern Daily Press 13 April 2004.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England