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Biographical entry Sheen, Alfred William (1869 - 1945)

CBE 1918; MRCS 12 May 1892; FRCS 10 May 1894; MB BS London 1892; MD 1893; MS 1895; DL Co Glamorgan.

30 April 1869
28 March 1945
General surgeon


Born 30 April 1869, eldest of the eleven children of Alfred Sheen, MD, MRCS, surgeon to Cardiff Royal Infirmary, and Harriet Nell, his wife. A younger brother rose to be an engineer rear-admiral, Royal Navy. Their father is reputed to have performed the first successful ovariotomy at Cardiff. Educated at the University College of South Wales, he took his medical training at Guy's Hospital, where he was house surgeon to Arthur Durham and obstetric resident. He also served as house surgeon at Bethlem Royal Hospital and at Cardiff Royal Infirmary, where he was in due course elected assistant surgeon. Sheen was the second man to set up in South Wales as a surgical consultant doing no general practice; John Lynn-Thomas alone preceded him.

Sheen served in the South African war as surgeon to the Imperial Yeomanry field hospital and was mentioned in despatches. He discovered an aptitude for soldiering, which stood to him when the first world war broke out. In the meantime he renewed his Cardiff practice, duly becoming surgeon to the Infirmary, and proving himself an excellent teacher and administrator. On 1 February 1909 he was commissioned lieutenant- colonel, RAMC, and in 1914 was appointed officer commanding and senior surgeon to the 34th (Welsh) General Hospital at Netley, Hants, and went with it to India in 1916, working chiefly at Deolali, and being subsequently consulting surgeon to military hospitals in India. He was created a CBE 1918 and came home in 1919. For a year he practised as a consultant in London, and was on the staff of the orthopaedic hospital at Shepherd's Bush.

Under a twenty-years' tenure rule Sheen had to resign his surgeoncy at Cardiff Infirmary at the very moment when his ability and experience were at their zenith. He was, however, called back to Cardiff to develop the new Welsh National School of Medicine. He was appointed the first professor of surgery and director of the surgical unit in 1921, and became provost of the School when he handed over the professorial chair to Lambert Rogers. On the outbreak of the second world war, 1939, Professor Rogers volunteered for service in the Navy and Sheen resumed his duties. When the Conjoint and other examinations of the Royal Colleges had to be evacuated from London on account of the air-raids and took place in various provincial capitals, Sheen was appointed to the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons and officiated at Cardiff. Sheen took an active part in the work of professional societies and served as president of the Guy's Physical Society, the Cardiff Medical Society, Cardiff Medical Students' Club, Cardiff Naturalists' Society, and the Hunterian Society of London. He was an authority on John Hunter's work. He was president of the section of surgery at the Cardiff meeting of the British Medical Association, 1928.

Sheen was county director for Glamorgan of the Voluntary Aid Society, in which capacity his quasi-military leadership was notably useful. At the Senghenydd mine disaster he was among the first to reach the pit-head and did sterling service in directing the rescue parties. His manner though brusque was essentially friendly, and he was generally and popularly known as "The Colonel". He was a military member of the Glamorgan Territorial Association. He was a member of the Moynihan Chirurgical Club and the International Society of Surgery. Sheen was early an advocate of prostatectomy and of splenectomy. He wrote many articles on surgery, and was much interested in reablement after industrial injuries. He was a hospitable man, and a good talker with a fund of anecdotes. His recreations were fishing and golf. Sheen married in 1898 Christine, daughter of J P Ingledew. There were no children; Mrs Sheen died in 1939. Sheen died at the Royal Infirmary, Cardiff on 28 March 1945, one month less than 76 years old. He contracted acute heartstrain in February, by walking three miles through a severe blizzard to keep an appointment at the offices of the National School of Medicine. The funeral was at Llandaff Cathedral on 3 April. Sheen had lived at Llandough House, Cardiff, and later at Blackgates, Llandaff. A memorial lecture was founded in his memory at the Cardiff Medical Society.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 31 March 1945, p 7d; Lancet, 1945, 1, 484, eulogies by E L C, G Grey Turner, and E J M; Brit med J 1945, 1, 536, with eulogies by Professor R M F Picken and Surgeon-Captain Lambert Rogers, and p 573 by G Grey Turner; Med Press, 1945, 213, 255].

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