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Biographical entry Stansfield, Frank (1910 - 1981)

FRCS by election 1971; BA Cambridge 1932; MA BCh 1936; MB 1937.

4 August 1910
Nelson, Lancashire
3 October 1981


Frank Stansfield became something of a legendary figure in the teaching of anatomy to aspiring surgeons. He was known with gratitude, by thousands who faced the Primary FRCS hurdle, for his personality and style of teaching in the College and 'out of hours' in a fetid basement lecture room held out for them the last chance of a pass. Indeed the intensive cramming course run jointly with David Slome for over 20 years boasted an 80-85% pass rate. The imparting of his encyclopaedic knowledge of anatomy was accompanied by quirkish witticisms provoked by faltering and erroneous answers to questions: 'That is positively grotesque.' 'You are anticipating backwards and retrospecting the future.' 'We go at one speed and one speed only: dead slow.' 'What is a lecture? It is words proceeding from the mouth of the speaker to the notebooks of his pupils without entering the brains of either.' 'What is revision? It is learning something for the first time one week before the examination.'

He was born on 4 August 1910 in Nelson, Lancashire, the only child of a successful cotton manufacturer. He was educated at Sedbergh School and at Downing College, Cambridge, where he was organ scholar. He qualified from the London Hospital Medical College and held clinical assistantships in medicine, neurology and paediatrics and was senior demonstrator in anatomy at the London Hospital from 1937 to 1939. During the second world war he was in the RAF, becoming Squadron Leader in the medical branch. After the war he became senior lecturer in anatomy, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the College and was also Bland-Sutton lecturer, Arnott demonstrator and examiner in anatomy for the Conjoint Board and for the Faculty of Dental Surgery. Other medical activities included his work as assistant medical officer, Royal Borough of Kensington (1939-42), and as divisional surgeon and county surgeon in the St John Ambulance.

As a confirmed bachelor with some freedom and as a man of some means he travelled first class - always. Indeed, he was one of the few holders of a first class go-anywhere rail ticket, for he enjoyed anything to do with railways and his knowledge of the railways of the UK was probably as complete as was his knowledge of the anatomy of the human body.

He died on 3 October 1981, aged 71.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1981, 283, 1617].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England