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Biographical entry Sheppard, Melvill Digby (1905 - 1958)

MRCS 9 May 1929; FRCS 9 June 1932; LRCP 1929; MB BS London 1930.

3 May 1905
Capetown, South Africa
4 February 1958
General surgeon


Born at Capetown on 3 May 1905 son of Walter Bissell Sheppard, an Australian who was a rubber planter in Java, and Irene Melvill his wife, a South African, he was taken by his parents to Java and then to Australia, where he was educated at Scotch College, Perth. He entered University College Hospital medical school in 1924, and after qualifying in 1929 served there as obstetric house surgeon. He was house surgeon at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford, and resident surgical officer at the Royal Salop Infirmary, Shrewsbury, and then settled in general practice at Chelmsford, after taking the Fellowship in 1932. He joined the partnership of Drs H W Newton and C W Alford, and was elected to the staff of the Chelmsford Hospital, where he became genito-urinary surgeon and finally senior surgeon.

He gave up general practice in 1940 to become a surgical consultant, and obtained one of the largest practices in mid-Essex. He was surgeon to St John's Hospital, Chelmsford and to Braintree Hospital, which he himĀ¬self developed from a cottage hospital to an efficient surgical unit, and consulting surgeon to Broomfield (Tuberculosis) Hospital. He was honorary secretary of the mid-Essex division of the British Medical Association 1946-48, and subsequently acted as assistant secretary. He was an indefatigable worker, who trained himself to do with very little sleep. His recreations were squash-rackets and tennis, and he was a skilled photographer doing much of his own clinical photography.

Sheppard inaugurated a scholarship fund to provide for travel and postgraduate study for nurses at home and abroad. Immediately after his death the trustees of this very successful scheme renamed it the Melvill Sheppard Memorial Scholarship Fund for Nurses. Sheppard had long been liable to fits of depression which gradually became more prolonged; and in 1957 he underwent a serious internal operation from which he recovered completely; he resumed his active surgical work as efficiently and skilfully as ever. On the morning of 4 February 1958 he was found dead, having killed himself during a fit of depression, aged 52. He had married Barbara Dauncey in 1933, and was survived by his wife and his mother.


Torsion of a pedunculated gastric cyst, with J R Gilmour. Brit med J 1945, 1, 874.
Sealed drainage of wounds. Lancet 1952, 1, 1174.
A modified Thompson punch resectoscope. Brit J Urol 1952, 24, 146.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Essex Weekly News 7 February 1958 p 1 with portrait, and 14 February p 1, by Dr W L Yell; The Times 10 February 1958 p 5 c; Brit med J 1958, 1, 404 with errors of detail and page 527 by WLN; information from Mrs Sheppard].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England