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Biographical entry Stebbing, George French (1884 - 1947)

MRCS 26 July 1906; FRCS by election 12 April 1934; MB BS London 1906; LRCP 1906; FFR 1939; CBE posthumous 1948.

2 October 1884
22 December 1947
General surgeon and Radiologist


Born on 2 October 1884 at Hazlemere, Woodside Park, Finchley, the fifth child and third son of Alfred Charles Stebbing, merchant, and Elizabeth Elstob, his wife. He was educated at Emanuel School, Wandsworth Common and at Guy's Hospital, where he served as house surgeon and out-patients officer, after taking honours and distinction in surgery at the MB, BS examination. Stebbing felt no inclination for private practice, and failing to see an institutional opening of the kind that he wished, he took the advice of Sir Charters Symonds to make one for himself, and in 1908 joined the staff of Lambeth Infirmary, then under the medical superintendence of A L Baly, MRCS, who gave him every encouragement in establishing a surgical clinic there.

Stebbing served as a naval surgeon during the war of 1914-1918, and on return to Lambeth became interested in the treatment of malignant disease by radium. He quickly realized that radium treatment ought not to be merely an item in the surgeon's armamentarium, but that for its full exploitation a new specialty of radio-therapy must develop in which surgeon and physicist should co-operate. The rest of his life was given up to a single-minded promotion of this project, while he continued his surgical work. He brought about an arrangement between the Ministry of Health and the Lambeth Board of Guardians for the supply of radium and establishment of deep X-ray plant at the Lambeth Hospital in 1929, and from then onwards till the end of his life was both surgical specialist and radio-therapist to the hospital.

The same year, 1929, he was appointed to the newly formed National Radium Commission and served as its honorary medical secretary till 1947. He was responsible for the framing of its policy, which took shape in three stages: first, the formation of radiotherapy units with adequate equipment, technical as well as medical staff, space and beds enough for fully efficient working; second, the addition of facilities for all forms of cancer treatment; and finally, the centralizing of these units in the provincial university regions.

Stebbing was a member of the Ministry of Health cancer subcommittee, and later of the Medical Research Council nuclear physics committee. He was chairman of council of the London and Counties Medical Protection Society; was a founder of the Society of Radio-therapists and became its president, and a founder of the London County Council clinical research committee, and the first chairman of the LCC Medical Society which developed from it. But for his last illness he would have been president of the section of radiology of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was an original Fellow of the Faculty of Radiology (1939) and its honorary treasurer. He also served as clinician to the Radium Beam Therapy Research, 1934-38. Stebbing was an examiner for part 2 of the Diploma in Medical Radiotherapy of the Conjoint Board, and became a co-opted member of Council of the College under the 1947 Charter. His name appeared in the New Year's Honours List 1948, for award of the Companionship of the Order of the British Empire, ten days after his death.

Stebbing married on 30 April 1919 Margaret Warburton McCroddall, who survived him with two sons, both medical students, and a married daughter. He died on 22 December 1947, aged 63, at Brigown, 38 Telford Avenue, Streatham, SW2. A memorial service was held at St Philip's, Kennington, on 12 January 1948. At the beginning of the war of 1939-45 he and his wife moved into residence at Lambeth Hospital, to give greater attention to the permanent inmates there. Stebbing was a man of integrity and moral courage, with a clear head and tireless energy. Though he was somewhat ruthless and uncompromising in the pursuit of his ideals, his charm and sincerity, combined with a cheerful sense of fun, won him innumerable friends.

A case of ateleiosis, with F Parkes Weber, Brit J Child Dis 1916, 13, 200.
The intravenous injection of oxygen gas as a therapeutic measure, with F W Tunnicliffe. Lancet, 1916, 2, 321.
Fractures of metatarsal bones by indirect violence, with A G R Foulerton. Lancet, 1927, 2, 1225.
Fractures of the upper end of the femur. Brit J Surg 1927, 15, 201. Chordotomy; section of the anterolateral tracts for the relief of pain, with notes of seventeen cases. Lancet, 1929, 1, 654.
Sir Charters Symonds, an appreciation, with a portrait. Guy's Hosp Rep 1933, 83, 259.
Wavelength as a factor in radiotherapy. Brit J Radiol 1938, 11, 177.
Modern methods in the treatment of cancer. J Roy Sanit Inst 1939-40, 60, 284. Radiotherapeutic education of the future. Brit J Radial 1942, 15, 294.
Radiotherapy in carcinoma of kidney and bladder. Proc Roy Soc Med 1945, 38, 250.
Diagnosis of cancer in a National Medical Service. The Skinner lecture, Faculty of Radiologists. Lancet, 1945, 2, 65.
Total war on cancer. Brit med J 1946, 2, 77.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 29 December 1947, p 6d, tribute by Lord Amulree, MD, FRCP; Brit med J 1948, 1, 28, eulogies by Sir Allen Daley, MD, Sir E Rock Carling, FRCS, and Malcom Donaldson, FRCS; Lancet, 1948, 1, 44, with portrait, and eulogies by Sir E Rock Carling and J R P; Guy's Hosp Gaz 1948, 62, 23, by P J Watkin, OBE, MC, MRCS, medical superintendent, Lambeth Hospital; information from Mrs Stebbing].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England