Sir Francis Edward Shipway

Personal Details

Sir Francis Edward Shipway KCVO MA MD FFARCS

06/12/1875 to 30/11/1968

Place of birth: Hampstead, London

Nationality: British

CRN: 715273

Also known as: Shippers to students

Education and qualifications

General education

Ipswich School; Christ’s College, Cambridge; St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School

Primary medical qualification(s)

MBBChir, Cambridge, 1902

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

BA, Cambridge, 1897 (MA, 1901); MD, Cambridge, 1907

Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

After house appointments at St Thomas’s and the Brompton Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, Shipway undertook postgraduate study in Vienna. For a short time from 1907 he was anaesthetist to the Victoria Hospital for Children in Chelsea, but in 1908 was appointed anaesthetist to Guy’s Hospital. Later he became honorary anaesthetist there, lecturer on anaesthetics to both medical & dental schools, and consulting anaesthetist to St Peter’s Hospital for Stone. He retired in 1945.

Professional interests and activities

Soon after commencing anaesthetic practice, Shipway became dissatisfied with the then current ‘open drop’ methods, believing that the inhalation of cold vapour caused postoperative pneumonia. With help from a renowned physiologist, Marcus Seymour Pembrey, he designed his eponymous apparatus in which ether and chloroform vapours were warmed by passing them through a ‘U’ tube immersed in hot water in a thermos flask. Initially this was ‘powered’ by a simple bellows, but soon an oxygen cylinder with reducing valve was used, and later a motor driven device produced. The apparatus proved to be versatile and useful during WW1. Shipway evaluated a number of new drugs and techniques, and was meticulous in his clinical observation and note-taking. In particular, he studied rectal bromethol (Avertin) as a premedicant and, after analysing the results of 1600 administrations, advocated it for use in hyperthyroidism, diabetes, cardiac disease, and many forms of respiratory disease. Before cyclopropane was introduced he also studied ethylene as a replacement for nitrous oxide. He published widely on the benefits of warmed ether vapour and the results of his other studies.

Always concerned for his patients, his preoperative assessment was meticulous, and he often cancelled surgery if he felt the procedure was not in their interests. This did not always endear him to his surgical colleagues, and the atmosphere in the operating theatre was described as ‘icy’ at times. One surgeon noted that Shipway’s idea of ‘more relaxation’ was actually “less rigidity”! He contributed greatly to the organisations of the specialty: president, RSM section (1926); president, BMA section (1932); founder member of council, AAGBI (1932-3); and member of the joint anaesthetic committee of the Medical Research Council. He was awarded Fellowship of the International College of Anaesthetists, honorary membership of the AAGBI (1942), and made KCVO (1928) after anaesthetising King George V for two thoracic procedures, this making him the second anaesthetist to be knighted.

Other biographical information

His father, Lt Col R W Shipway, owned and restored the former country home of the artist William Hogarth in Chiswick. He gave it to Middlesex County Council in 1909, ownership passing to Hounslow Council in 1969, and it remains open as ‘Hogarth’s House’. Shipway was an active oarsman in his student days, and lived in Henley-on-Thames during his retirement. He married Winifred Adine Biddiel in 1912 (she died in 1955), and they had two daughters.

Author and Sources

Author: Dr Declan Warde

Sources and any other comments: Medical Directory | Obituary. BMJ 1968; 4: 649 & Anaesthesia 1969; 24: 296 | Peile J. Biographical Register of Christ’s College, Cambridge, 1505-1905. Volume II: 1606-1905. Cambrudge: University Press, 1912. | Atchison GT, Brown GC. The History of the Christ’s College Boat Club. Cambridge: Spalding, 1912. | Hogarth’s House – en.wikipedia.org27s_House (last accessed on 12/05/2017).