Born in 1918, Sheila Sherlock was educated at Folkstone (Kent) County School for Girls and the University of Edinburgh, where she graduated cum laude in 1941 and then earned her MD with a Gold Medal. She received the MRCP in 1943 and the FRCP in 1951 from the Royal College of Physicians, London. She also received the FRCP from Edinburgh in 1958.
After being Clinical Assistant in the Department of Surgery in Edinburgh, Sheila Sherlock became House Physician to Sir John McMichael in Hammersmith in 1942. Here she continued as Medical Research Council Fellow and as Beit Memorial Research Fellow from 1945 to 1947, studying the biochemistry of liver disease.
From 1947 to 1948 she was Rockefeller Research Fellow in Physiological Chemistry at Yale under Long, conducting her work on carbohydrate metabolism. She returned as Lecturer in Medicine and Honorary Consultant Physician to the Royal Postgraduate Medical School for 11 years, to lead a productive liver group.
Sheila Sherlock organized a Ciba Foundation Symposium in 1950, which may have been the first international hepatology gathering.
In 1959 she was appointed Professor of Medicine of the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, a post which she held for 24 years.
In 1976 she became Senior Censor and Vice-President of the Royal College of Physicians of London, and also Senator of the University of London.
She received many honors, the foremost being her appointment as a Dame of the British Empire in 1978 and being made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001. She received honorary doctorates from 19 universities, throughout the world.
Her classic textbook Diseases of the Liver and Biliary System has just been published in its eleventh edition, with three chapters written by Dame Sheila available on-line with GastroHep.com.
When Sheila Sherlock retired from heading the Department of Medicine at the Royal Free in 1983, Hans Popper wrote, "What are the personal attributes of this remarkable lady? From emphasis on conciseness of thinking, courage of conviction, and unbounded professional energy, one would expect a hard disciplined woman with only limited interest in the trivial enjoyments of life.
"It is therefore surprising to find an unusually warm woman, interested, for instance, in the personal welfare of her co-workers and colleagues.
"She enjoys, with the same intensity that she exhibits in her professional work, all the pleasures of life - a fine meal, the seeing of sites, and a good joke.
"She is a member of a tightly knit family, which shares with great enthusiasm all her pleasures and successes.
"Her husband, Dr. D. Geraint James, Dean of the Royal Northern Hospital and one of the leading physicians of London, is a strong personality in his own right, a leader in the field of sarcoidosis and in immunology. Moreover, he has become one of the most erudite historians of medicine. Sheila and Gerry support and complement each other. Thus, an evening in their hospitable home in London or on one of their many trips is a rare treat.
"She is the proud mother of two daughters who have grown into charming young ladies.
"Last, but not least, Sheila is a great friend to many of us; it is a privilege to count her as one of mine."
Professor Dame Sheila Sherlock FRS died peacefully in her sleep at home on Sunday December 30th 2001.