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Biographical entry Sheppard, James Pook (1787 - 1854)

MRCS, April 15th, 1808; FRCS, Dec. 11th, 1843, one of the original 300 Fellows; MSA, 1813; JP.

12 August 1787
Dorchester, UK
20 February 1854
Worcester, UK
General surgeon


Born at Dorchester on Aug 12th, 1787. He was educated at Lymington, Hants, was then placed under a well-known surgeon at Salisbury, and in 1807 entered St Thomas’s Hospital, where, under the tuition of Sir Astley Cooper and Cline, he soon acquired a superior knowledge of anatomy and surgery. Sir Astley Cooper chose him as his prosector, in which capacity he prepared many of the dissections used in Sir Astley’s lectures. He was promised the post of Demonstrator of Anatomy and was strongly urged to accept it by his masters, who had formed a high opinion of his talents. Sheppard, however, felt debarred by his health from settling in London. He had been struck by Worcester on passing through it, and there he settled without local friends or connections. He won his way by merit, his career being watched with interest by both Cline and Cooper, the latter of whom became his personal friend. In 1815 he was unsuccessful in obtaining the post of Surgeon at Worcester General Infirmary, but succeeded in 1819.

In hospital, as in private, practice he endeared himself to his patients by his tenderness and humanity. He made it his rule, if summoned to the hospital and to a private patient at the same time, to attend first to the public duty. He loved his profession sincerely, and continued throughout life to be an ardent student, in this emulating his master, Sir Astley Cooper. He was ready at all times to foster every effort made in the provinces to advance medical science, and was lavish in his endeavours for the good of others, often going unrewarded, though he had a numerous family to provide for. The thought of personal gain never entered into his calculations.

He was a very skilful operator, but no man was ever more anxious not to operate without due cause. As an accoucheur he won celebrity and was for some years frequently consulted in difficult cases. In diagnosis he was remarkable for his accuracy. In consultation his opinions were given with clearness and confidence, but with the greatest courtesy to those who differed from him. He had the gift of making his patients feel, in times of sickness and sorrow, that they had a friend on whose sympathy and religious principle they might depend. Thus he made many lasting friendships.

In 1828 he became one of the proprietors and surgical editor of the Midland Medical Reporter, published for four years in Worcester, and afterwards - in 1832 - led to the formation of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association which has since developed into the British Medical Association. With Sir Charles Hastings he was appointed joint Hon Secretary of the Association in 1832, and held that office till 1843, when Sir Charles Hastings was appointed President of the Council and Sheppard retired in favour of Robert James Nicholl Streeten, who became sole Secretary with a salary of a hundred guineas a year. In 1849, on Streeten’s death, Sheppard - then an active member of the Central Council - succeeded him in the office, and discharged its onerous duties till his death.

He was as valuable in social as in professional life. His nature was eminently truthful, his judgement sound, and his memory accurate. While these qualities gave weight to his opinions, they made him candid and courteous to the opinions of other men. His tastes were simple and his disposition gentle; and if ever his dislike of all unfairness and dissimulation gave occasion for him to administer a rebuke, he performed it as an unwelcome task. He was very well read, especially in politics and history. He possessed in a high degree the then popular art of quotation from favourite authors. He knew his Shakespeare thoroughly. His domestic affections were very strong and he avoided society. In March, 1853, he fell ill and lingered for a year, dying in Worcester on Feb 20th, 1854. During the whole of his trying illness he behaved with the most exemplary fortitude and patience, very frequently expressing his sense of ‘the value of suffering’.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Assoc. Med. Jour., 1854, 244. Midland Med. Reporter, passim].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England