Papers and correspondence of Dame Sheila Sherlock

Scope and Content

SECTION A, Biographical, presents a very large set of medals, certificates and plaques reflecting Sherlock's professional achievements and her international reputation in liver research. All her major awards are represented and there are plaques commemorating her visits to many foreign medical institutions, sometimes as a visiting lecturer. There are also school and university academic certificates etc (including scholarships). A large but incomplete series of appointment diaries dates from 1953 to 2001. An attractively written childhood diary records a visit to Norway in August 1933. In addition there are a few photographs and miscellaneous items.

SECTION B, Clinical work and research, comprises a small but significant group of volumes. Five of Sherlock's handwritten case books survive: two (1943-1944) dating from her early research post at Hammersmith Hospital; the other three (1950-1959) compiled during her post as Lecturer and Consultant Physician at Hammersmith. The pure research material consists of her MD thesis (1945) in two parts, her essay 'Jaundice' which won the Buckston Browne prize in 1953 (both typewritten) and a rough notebook c.1957.

SECTION C, Lectures and scientific meetings, presents lecture notes for a number of Sherlock's lectures from her later years, most given at foreign medical establishments. Included are notes for her Dawson Memorial Lecture, 1999. There is correspondence from her 1955 visit to the USA during which she lectured at a number of medical establishments and meetings. There are also programmes for scientific meetings from 1960, some annotated by Sherlock.

SECTION D, Publications, consists of a small number of drafts, chiefly for unidentified books on the liver. There is some brief editorial correspondence and reprints. .

SECTION E, Non-textual material, comprises slides for lectures only. There is also a short Index of correspondents. NCUACS catalogue no. 142/7/05. Local ref no. GB 1530 D24.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sheila Patricia Violet Sherlock was born in Dublin on 31 March 1918. Her early childhood was spent in London before the family moved to the Kent coast in 1929. After attending the Folkestone County School for Girls, she won a place to study medicine at Edinburgh University (1936) where her lecturers included Stanley Davidson, Sir John McMichael and Sir James Learmonth. When she graduated in 1941, she came top of her year and became only the second woman to receive the Ettles Scholarship. Sherlock remained at Edinburgh to take up the post of Assistant Lecturer in Surgery offered to her by Learmonth. Her first publication, jointly with Learmonth, on aneurysm of the splenic artery appeared in the British Journal of Surgery in 1942. Also in that year she was appointed House Physician to Sir John McMichael at Hammersmith Hospital (Royal Postgraduate Medical School), a move that was to have a profound effect on the course of her career. She worked on hepatitis and was able to continue this work at Hammersmith from 1943 to 1947, initially with funding from the Medical Research Council and, later, through the award of the Beit Memorial Fellowship. Her MD thesis on 'The Liver in Disease: with special reference to aspiration liver biopsy' (Edinburgh, 1945) was awarded a Gold Medal. In this period she also carried out important work on the effect of malnutrition on the liver. On the award of a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship, Sherlock spent a year at Yale University School of Medicine (1947-1948). Her research concentrated on carbohydrate metabolism, though she was also able to meet a number of American researchers in liver disease. On her return she took up the post of Lecturer in Medicine and Consultant Physician at Hammersmith Hospital and the next eleven years saw a prolific and diverse output of papers on diseases of the liver. Major studies by Sherlock and her team included those on portal systemic encephalopathy and portal hypertension. Her book Diseases of the Liver and Biliary System, acknowledged as a classic study, was published in 1955. During these years she also organised the CIBA Symposium (1950), the first international meeting on liver disease, and, with Hans Popper, conceived the idea of founding the International Association for the Study of Liver Disease (IASL). Sherlock was chosen as the IASL's first President in 1958.

In 1959 Sherlock moved to the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London, as Chair of the Department of Medicine, remaining there until her retirement in 1983. Her Unit quickly gained an international reputation for liver research, attracting specialists from all over the world and making major contributions to hepatology. From 1975 she was heavily involved in the annual 'Liver Update' meetings at the hospital which always featured speakers from Europe and the USA alongside those from Sherlock's team. Sherlock's professional responsibilities included editor of Gut (1967-1975), President of the International Association for the Study of the Liver (1958-1962), President of the British Society of Gastroenterology (1973), and President of the British Liver Trust (1988-2001). She received a great many honours for her work including Dame Commander of the British Empire (1978); Fellow of the Royal Society (2001); Honorary Fellowships of several international medical colleges; and Honorary Degrees from many universities including Lisbon (1981), Yale (1983), London (1989) and Cambridge (1995). Prizes awarded to her include the Buckston Browne Prize (1953), the Thannhauser Prize (1980) and the Gold Medal of the British Medical Association (1985). In 1951 she was the youngest woman to be elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. In 1951 she married D. Geraint James and they had two children. Sheila Sherlock died on 30 December 2001. For a comprehensive biography of Sherlock see James S. Dooley, 'Dame Sheila Sherlock (1918-2001): Life and Work', Falk Foundation e.V., 2003.

Access Information

Appointment required. Please contact Royal Free Hospital Medical Library,Royal Free Hospital, Rowland Hill Street,Hampstead,NW3 2PF, England,Tel: 020 7794 0500 x33202, Email:

Other Finding Aids

NCUACS catalogue no. 142/7/05

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Dr T.E. Powell, NCUACS, Spetember 2006.