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Biographical entry Shepherd, John Alfred (1913 - 1992)

VRD 1950; FRCS ad eundem 1959; MB ChB St Andrew's 1936; MD 1939; MCh 1950; FRCS Edinburgh 1939.

11 May 1913
4 March 1992
General surgeon


John Shepherd was born in Edinburgh on 11 May 1913, the son of a schoolmaster, Frederick Peter Shepherd, and his wife Christina, née Brackenridge. He was educated at George Watson's College and Kelso Collge, and went with a scholarship to St Andrew's. He qualified in 1936 and did his house jobs in his teaching hospital in Dundee. He hjoined the RVNR even before qualification and trained with the Navy as well as taking junior appointments in Oxford and Portsmouth, during which time he acquired the Edinburgh FRCS.

Mobilized at the outbreak of war he served with distinction throughout the hostilities and maintained his attachment to the RVNR, afterwards reaching the rank of surgeon captain in 1957. In recognition of his services he received the VRD with bar in 1950 and 1960.

After the war he returned briefly to Oxford but spent most of his surgical career in Liverpool, first as senior lecturer in surgery at the University and then as consultant to Broadgreen Hospital. In addition to his buy clinical practice he was a valuable committee man, serving on the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board and the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, where he was Vice-President from 1970 to 1973. He examined for both Royal Colleges and was awarded the FRCS in 1959.

He was a prolific writer - his first book The acute abdomen was published in 1960 with a second edition in 1969 and three reprints. But perhaps his most enduring literary works were in the field of medical history, with biographies of Simpson and Syme, Spencer, Wells and Lawson Tait, and his magnum opus The Crimean Doctors, published in 1991. This history of the British doctors involved in the Crimean war showed tremendous scholarship, and may be the definitive work on the subject. He enjoyed the meetings and company of the Liverpool Medical Institution and was its honorary librarian and later its archivist and president from 1976 to 1977. His book A history of the Liverpool Medical Institution was published in 1979, the institution's bicentenary.

In 1941 he married Alice Newbolt, by whom he was to have three sons (one in medicine) and a daughter. When he died on 4 March 1992 he was survived by his wife, children and nine grandchildren.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1992 305 519, with portrait; Medical Historian: bulletin of the Liverpool Medical History Society 1992 5 30].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England