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Biographical entry Shepherd, Francis John (1851 - 1929)

MRCS 23 July 1874; Hon FRCS 31 July 1913; MD CM McGill 1873; Hon LLD Edinburgh 1905; Hon FRCS Edinburgh 1905; Hon LLD Harvard 1906; Hon FACS 1914; Hon LLD McGill 1915; Hon LLD Queen's, Kingston 1919.

25 November 1851
Port Cavignal, Canada
18 January 1929
Anatomist and General surgeon


Born 25 November 1851 the second of the ten children of Robert Ward Shepherd, general manager of the Ottawa River Navigation Co, and his wife, née Delesderniers, who was of Swiss origin. He was born at Port Cavignal, afterwards named Como, a village about 38 miles from Montreal on the southern side of the Lake of Two Mountains. Educated at the village school he passed to the Montreal High School, and appears to have entered the Arts Faculty at McGill in 1868. On 1 November 1869 he was a member of the newly established Medical Faculty of McGill. He made a short visit to the United States as soon as he had graduated in 1873, as there was no resident appointment vacant at the Montreal General Hospital. The years 1874 and 1875 were spent in postgraduate study. He visited London first, became a student at St Thomas's Hospital, and passed the first and second examinations for the MRCS with the intention of entering the Indian Medical Service. From London he passed to Marburg and from there to Vienna, where he took out courses in dermatology under Hebra and in anatomy under Zückerkandl. Whilst he was in Vienna his friend Osler wrote in April 1875 telling him that he had been appointed demonstrator of anatomy at McGill. He accepted the post and retained it until 1883, when he was appointed lecturer on anatomy, a position he held until his retirement in 1913, when he was succeeded by Sir Auckland Geddes. When Shepherd began to teach anatomy the subjects had to be obtained by resurrectionist methods. He was instrumental in 1883 in obtaining a legal supply, and he insisted that anatomy could only be learnt by dissection.

In 1878 he was appointed medical officer to the Montreal Dispensary, and in May of the following year he was elected surgeon to out-patients at the Montreal General Hospital. In 1883 he exchanged this post for that of physician to the Charity and undertook the surgical work. He was also made temporary registrar of the Faculty of Medicine at McGill. In 1908 he became dean of the Faculty in succession to Sir Thomas Roddick, and remained dean until 1914. In 1883 too he was vice-president of the Students' Medical Society, which had been established by his contemporary and colleague William Osler in 1877, and during 1882-95 he acted as librarian of the Faculty. Shepherd gave valuable advice during the building of the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1891-93, but was never a member of the staff. In a similar manner he was greatly interested in the Montreal Maternity Hospital from 1886 until his death.

He married Lilias Gertrude Torrance in 1878. She died in 1892 leaving two daughters. His only son was killed in action at Cambrai. He died suddenly on 18 January 1929, probably of coronary thrombosis. Shepherd was felix opportunitate vitae. He came to McGill in its infancy and took a very large share in raising it to the position it now occupies. He had a life-long friend in his McGill contemporary, Sir William Osler, and like him was a frequent visitor to the medical schools in Europe. He was too a man of culture, who trained himself to a knowledge of art, was president of the Montreal Art Association, 1918-29, and chairman of the board of trustees of the Canadian National Gallery, Ottawa.

A portrait by Miss Des Clayes, painted by subscription in 1924, hangs in the Assembly Hall of the Medical Building at McGill University. Another, by Alphonse Jongerz, is in possession of the family. A memorial lecture was established at McGill University in 1953.

Howell's F J Shepherd - surgeon contains as an appendix a list of his very numerous writings.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Canad med Ass J 1929, 20, 210, with portrait; Francis John Shepherd - surgeon, his life and times 1851-1919, by William Boyman Howell, with numerous portraits at different periods, Toronto and Vancouver, J M Dent and Sons, 1934; McGill med J 1953, 22, 67, by J A Mills; Life of Sir William Osler by Harvey Cushing, 1925 passim; information given by Dr W W Francis, of the Osler Library, McGill University].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England