Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Shucksmith, Henry Samuel (1910 - 1993)

MRCS 1934; FRCS 1935; BSc 1931; MB ChB 1934; LRCP 1934.

22 November 1993
General surgeon


Henry Shucksmith was the third child of Thomas Warth Shucksmith, a farmer of Alvington, Lincolnshire, and his wife Fanny White, whose father was a blacksmith. He was educated at the Alvington and North Coederington Church of England Elementary School followed by the King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth.

He received his medical education at the University of Leeds Medical School, beginning on 17 September 1927 at the age of 17. He had a distinguished academic career which terminated in 1934 with first class honours. During the course of his training he gained in turn the Littlewood prize in anatomy, the prize money from which enabled him to take a BSc in physiology, in which he also gained first class honours. This was followed by winning the Infirmary Scholarship, the McGill and Mayo Robson prizes in surgery, the Hardwick prize in clinical medicine and finally the William Hey Gold Medal in clinical surgery.

Immediately after qualification he was appointed house surgeon to E R Flint at the Leeds General Infirmary, who had most impressed him during his clinical training. Following this he took the primary Fellowship course at King's College and passed the examination. Immediately afterwards he attended the Bart's final Fellowship course, but failed at his first attempt, finally passing the examination in November 1935, after which he was appointed resident casualty officer and then promoted to the post of resident surgical officer in 1936 and junior surgical tutor in 1938.

With the second world war imminent he and many other junior members of staff of the Infirmary joined the Territorial Army in 1938. Called up at the onset of war, his first posting was to the First Northern General Hospital at Etaples in France, and as the French collapsed he was evacuated with the BEF from Dunkirk. Later he served in Malta during the siege and finally with the invasion forces of Sicily. He was discharged as the war ended, having been awarded a TD. During his war service he came under the influence of one Father Higgins and was received into the Catholic Church but hereafter never practised this faith.

After discharge from the forces he returned to his old post as tutor and in 1946 was appointed honorary assistant surgeon to the General Infirmary at Leeds, St James's Hospital, Leeds, the Leeds Public Dispensary, the Herzl Moser Hospital, Leeds, Seacroft Hospital, Leeds, Pinderfields General Hospital, Wakefield and the General Hospital in Dewsbury. In 1945 he was appointed Hunterian Professor, taking as his theme 'abdominal injuries in battle casualties'.

In 1946 he married Mary Richardson Sykes MB ChB who worked for some years for the Public Health Department of Leeds and later in community health, retiring in 1986. They had two sons - Thomas Sykes, born on 14 May 1947, who became a consultant actuary, and William Henry, born in 1949, who became a chartered surveyor.

With the advent of the National Health Service and the gradual increase in the number of practising consultants his appointments were reduced so that for the majority of his professional life he was attached only to the Infirmary and St James's Hospital, in both of which he served for a period of nearly thirty years. He would dearly have loved to replace P J Moir as Clinical Professor of Surgery but this ambition was denied him by the University's demand for a full-time Chair in this subject to be established.

Early in his consultant career he became a founder member of the Yorkshire Regional Surgical Club and somewhat later a member of the Moynihan Club, of which he was President in 1975. In 1948 he visited Boston to observe the technique of sympathectomy and the results thereof, and returning to the Infirmary he began to operate on patients suffering from hypertension, publishing the results of his experiences in 1956 when he was able to report the dubious effects of this operation in over 200 patients.

He wrote numerous articles on surgical topics but gradually, especially after 1950, his chief interests became the newly-emerging specialties of vascular surgery and breast cancer. For the former he began using freeze-dried arteries removed in sterile fashion from the cadaver and then treated by his colleague, the bacteriologist Dr Zinneman, later moving on to endarterectomy and the use of vein, and later still prosthetic grafts. He became a founder member of the European Society of Vascular Surgeons in 1954. With regard to breast cancer he was probably one of the first to appreciate that this disease was more successfully treated by a multidisciplinary team, and to this end he recruited pathologists, experimental cancer researchers and radiotherapists in order to improve results. He was a skilled and able teacher albeit with an acerbic and sometimes cruel wit.

Outside the hospital he had few interests other than his garden and the Stock Exchange, both becoming for a time a major hobby after his retirement. He also pursued an interest in the law which had first attracted him during his military service, and was a student of the Inner Temple. He retired in 1975 and continued to read, to tend his garden while still physically capable and occasionally to shoot and fish. While still able he attended the Industrial Tribunal to which he had been appointed during his active professional career. Gradually, however, he became a recluse, seeing no-one and not bothering to communicate with ex-colleagues. Suffering from generalised arterial disease he died in St James's Hospital on 22 November 1993, and having been born a Methodist, and embracing for a time at least the Church of Rome, he died an agnostic, leaving his body to the anatomy department of the Leeds Medical School. He was survived by his wife Mary (Binkie), sons Tom and Bill and four grandchildren. His ashes were scattered in the place of his birth.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England