Lives of the fellows

Samuel Shone

b.22 February 1906 d.1 January 1986
OBE(1948) MRCS LRCP(1928) MB BS Lond(1929) MRCP(1931) MD(1932) FRCP(1968)

Samuel Shone was born in Warsaw, Poland, where his father, Isaac, was a tailor. His mother was Stephanie Leshgold. In 1912 the family moved to London where his father re-established himself as a merchant tailor. While Sam was undoubtedly a diligent student who displayed great ability, his achievements owed a great deal to the sacrifices made by his indulgent parents.

Sam Shone was educated at Sir George Monoux’ Grammar School, Walthamstow, and at Guy’s Hospital medical school. After qualification, his clinical appointments between 1929 and 1934 at Guy’s Hospital - in neurology, dermatology and venereology - were combined with general practice. He obtained his doctorate in 1932.

In 1935 he entered the Indian Medical Service and was additional professor of medicine at the Madras Medical College from 1939-40. However, in August 1939 he had volunteered for military duties and he was posted overseas in 1940. He served successively in the Sudan, Egypt, and in Italy as the officer commanding the medical division, eventually attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. He returned to India in 1944 as officer commanding a medical division at Lucknow.

In June 1945 Sam Shone returned to civilian duties as professor of medicine at Andhra College and physician in charge of the King George V Hospital at Vizagapatam. For this work he was awarded the OBE. After Indian independence, he worked for a time as chief medical officer of the Kailing Mining Administration in China but was obliged to return to this country when the communists took control.

In 1949 he was appointed deputy senior administrative medical officer to the newly created Sheffield Regional Hospital Board. In 1962 he became senior administrative medical officer, a post which he held until his retirement in 1971. Initially, his assistant medical officers were all either ex-IMS or British ex-servicemen and, because they knew a thing or two about work avoidance, the department was for many years operated on quasi-military lines; heated exchanges and barked orders were commonplace. But the launch of Enoch Powell’s hospital plan for England and Wales provided Sam with the opportunity to appoint additional staff of his own choosing. They were younger men, not set in their ways, who actually wanted to help in refashioning the hospital services. Sam brought an analytical approach to problem solving although some of his critics, who had a tendency to rely on intuition rather than reason, used to say he could always find six answers to every question.

Sam Shone exhibited a contradictory character. Sometimes he was the archetypal small, corpulent, choleric bully - and many lived in fear of arousing his wrath. At other times he could be utterly charming and unbelievably patient, especially so with pretty young women and small children. Indeed, he was patient with anyone who showed a willingness to learn, for he was an able teacher. He had a masterly command of written and spoken English, and was well versed in Latin prose from which he frequently quoted. Memoranda and letters drafted for him were often returned with endless corrections, and only the absence of a mark out of 10 distinguished them from school work.

He was a highly articulate man who loved debate, especially with his intellectual equals. On one celebrated occasion he and the late Richard Crossman, Secretary of State for Social Services, had an embarrassing slanging match at a meeting held to discuss services for the elderly. Later that day Crossman summoned him to his room, where it was agreed that they were both strong-willed and the argument was resolved over a drink.

Within the Zuckerman Committee on the future of the scientific services in the NHS, of which he was a member, he was known behind his back as the ‘Dalek’, partly on account of the similar physical attributes but mainly because of a shared propensity to emit expressions like ‘exterminate, exterminate’; he might have been flattered.

After retirement, he moved to Nottingham to take up the chair created for him in the University medical school as special professor of administration. Here he played an important part in the life of the new school, and also pursued his interest in teaching consultants about the management of the NHS. A severe stroke in 1974 compelled him to abandon further work; mercifully he was not deprived of either his speech or his reason and was able to occupy himself in reading and conversation.

In 1943 he married Mary Isabel Forbes, the daughter of a Scottish farmer. He had one son, who has lived in South Africa for many years. He had few interests outside medicine except photography at which he excelled, and occasionally he was persuaded to exhibit his works but, like many artists, he was very self-critical.

Of his many achievements during his time at Sheffield, three are particularly worthy of mention. He was the main architect of the plans for the refurbishment of the hospital and specialist services throughout the region. Much of the new building was not finished before he retired, but he had brought about very substantial improvements in medical staffing levels. He was highly influential in persuading the Department of Health that Nottingham and Leicester could provide ample clinical experience to support the proposed new medical schools. Finally, he was one of the pioneers in introducing short courses on management for consultants, which he did with the help of a grant from the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust. These courses always proved popular and continue to this day; in many ways he viewed them as a form of briefing to his troops before they went into battle.

Sam survived for eleven years after his stroke, thanks to the selfless care and devotion of his wife.

JA Scott

(Volume VIII, page 459)

<< Back to List