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Biographical entry Sherren, James (1872 - 1945)

CBE 1919; MRCS 27 July 1899; FRCS 13 December 1900; LRCP 1899.

31 October 1872
29 October 1945
General surgeon


Born at Weymouth, 31 October 1872, the eldest son of John A Sherren, printer and publisher, and his wife Anne Eliza Wilkinson. He was educated at Weymouth College, but early went to sea and served before the mast. After achieving his master mariner's certificate he suddenly left the sea, and entered the London Hospital Medical College in 1894. He distinguished himself in anatomy and physiology, served the Hospital as house physician, house surgeon, and resident anaesthetist, and was demonstrator of anatomy and surgical tutor in the Medical College. He took the Fellowship in 1900 sixteen months after qualifying, was appointed surgical registrar at the London 1901, and elected assistant surgeon 1902. He was at first a follower of Sir Frederick Treves, but on the early death of Harold Leslie Barnard, a surgeon of the highest promise, Sherren took up abdominal surgery, then a rapid and growing specialty in which he quickly made an outstanding reputation. He also worked with Sir Henry Head, FRS, FRCP, on the problems of peripheral nerve surgery and of cutaneous tenderness in visceral disease, and published a useful book, Injuries of the nerves and their treatment, 1908. Charles Ballance had begun to attack similar problems a little earlier. Sherren became surgeon to the London Hospital in 1913, operating regularly there and at Fitzroy House, which was practically his own nursing-home.

During the war of 1914-18 he served at the War Office with the rank of colonel, AMS, commissioned 12 February 1918, and was a consulting surgeon to the Army. He worked chiefly at King Edward VII's Hospital for Officers, at the King George Military Hospital, and at the Yarrow Military Hospital, Broadstairs. He was created CBE for his services. During the second world war, 1939-45, he worked at the Cornelia and East Dorset Hospital, Poole. Sherren took an active share in the work of the Royal College of Surgeons. He was Erasmus Wilson lecturer 1906, a Hunterian professor 1920, and Bradshaw lecturer 1925. He was an examiner in anatomy for the primary Fellowship 1909, and a member of the Court of Examiners 1921-23. He was elected to the Council 1917, and was a vice-president 1925. He examined in surgery for London University, and was a member of the Senate.

In 1926, at the height of his powers and fame, Sherren suddenly gave up all his hospital and other London connexions at the age of 54, and went back to sea. He served as a ship's surgeon, and did much to improve the medical service for merchant seamen. He finally retired to White Barn, Broadstone, Dorset. Sherren married in 1897, while a student, Madeleine, eldest daughter of George Thorne. Mrs Sherren survived him with three sons and two daughters. He died at Broadstone on 29 October 1945, after a long illness, aged 73. Sherren was a man of great ability, of honest and masterful character. He kept the markings of his rough early years at sea through his brilliant London career. But he was also a keen musician, a violinist able to take part in string quartets with professional players.

Appendicitis. Practitioner, 1905, 74, 833. He advocated delayed treatment, as taught by Albert Ochsner (1858-1925) of Chicago in his Handbook of appendicitis 1902. Sherren discovered the "appendix triangle of hyperaesthesia".
Injuries of the nerves and their treatment. London, 1908.
Lectures on the surgery of the stomach and duodenum. London, 1921.
The stomach and the duodenum, in Choyce's System of surgery, London, 1911.
Joint editor with Sir R Hutchison of Index of treatment, Bristol, 1908.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 31 October 1945, p 7e; Brit med J 1945, 2, 670, with portrait and eulogy by H S Souttar, CBE, FRCS; Lancet, 1945, 2, 615, with portrait and eulogies by Sir James Walton, FRCS, AB, JCAN, and Sir Robert Hutchison, FRCP; London Hosp Gaz 1946, 49, 24, by Sir R Hutchison, with portrait; Brit J Surg 1945-46, 33, 286, with portrait; H Bailey and W J Bishop Notable names in medicine and surgery, London, 1944, pp 157-159 with portrait; information from Mrs Sherren].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England