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Biographical entry Shaw, John Fraser (1922 - 2015)

MB BS London 1945; FRCS 1954; FRCS Edin 1965.

Calcutta, India
22 August 2015


John Fraser Shaw was a neurosurgeon who trained under, and then assisted, Norman Dott with his pioneering work. He was, in his own words, 'fortunate' to arrive at this position - 'lucky' to serve under Dott at the neurosurgical department of the Edinburgh Western General. John was born in Calcutta in 1922 to an English mother and a Scottish father, and here he spent his earliest years. His father, Roderick, was commissioned into the 52nd Sikhs, although he also managed to find time to captain the Calcutta Scottish Football Club.

Colonial friends were to help determine John's later life - a Mr Russell in particular. This 'Old Alleynian' convinced Roderick that he must send his boy to school at Dulwich: John regretted never being able to thank Mr Russell. With the outbreak of the Second World War, John began his medical training at Guy's Hospital, playing rugby and boxing for the hospital, before becoming house surgeon to (later Sir) Russell Brock. Formal teaching was soon interrupted and he joined the Home Guard and then the Royal Air Force as a medical officer from 1946 to 1948, a period away from the classroom, which he regarded as equally informative and valuable. He then returned to Guy's Hospital as a demonstrator in anatomy working under James Whillis.

After completing various general surgical registrar appointments in the south east of England, John obtained the fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1954. It was at this time that he was introduced to neurosurgery as registrar to Geoffrey Knight. 1957 would perhaps mark his most 'fortunate' moment in medicine, as he came to serve under Norman Dott, from whom he received full neurosurgical training at Dott's pioneering Edinburgh unit. Assisting the distinguished Dott for three years, he took up a position as a consultant neurosurgeon upon his mentor's retirement.

While in this role, John became increasingly dedicated to paediatric neurosurgery and was a founder member and past president of the European Society for Paediatric Neurosurgery. He travelled widely, gathering experience and insight from various paediatric surgical centres, which would help him whilst serving on the editorial boards of Child's Brain and Neuro-Paediatriae. He contributed to A companion to medical studies (Oxford, Blackwell Scientific), Forfar and Arneill's textbook of paediatrics (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone) and was co-editor of Progress in paediatric neurosurgery: proceedings of the 3rd European Congress of Paediatric Neurosurgery in Göttingen, September 3-7, 1972 (Stuttgart, Hippokrates Verlag, 1974).

His interests included the countryside around Loch Tay and Scottish painters of the Victorian era. He was the first to admit that he never progressed beyond the 'duffer' stage at golf.

John married Sheila (née Wilson) in 1957 after they met when she was anaesthetising for his operating list. He died at home on 22 August 2015. His widow survived him, as did a son, Roderick, a GP, and a daughter, Kirsty, a charge nurse in paediatrics.

Roderick Shaw

The Royal College of Surgeons of England