Shaw, Alexander (DNB00)

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SHAW, ALEXANDER (1804–1890), surgeon, born 6 Feb. 1804, was the sixth son of Charles Shaw, clerk of the county of Ayr, and Barbara Wright his wife, daughter of a collector of customs at Greenock. John Shaw (1792–1827) [q. v.], Sir Charles Shaw [q. v.], and Patrick Shaw [q. v.], were elder brothers. While one sister, Marion, married Sir Charles Bell [q. v.], another sister became the wife of Professor George Joseph Bell [q. v.] Alexander was educated at the Edinburgh high school, and afterwards went to the university of Glasgow, where he matriculated in 1819 and graduated M.A. 11 April 1822. Shaw was connected with the Middlesex Hospital for more than half a century. He entered there as a pupil in 1822; was made assistant surgeon in 1836, and surgeon in 1842. On his retirement in 1872 he was appointed consulting surgeon. He joined the medical school of the hospital at its first formation, and at the time of his death was the sole survivor of the original members of the staff. Meanwhile, with the idea of obtaining an M.D. degree, he was admitted as a pensioner at Downing College, Cambridge, 28 June 1826. In 1827, on the death of his brother John, Alexander left Cambridge to take up his work at the Great Windmill Street school. From this time all his energies were devoted to his professional work, and he abandoned the idea of taking his Cambridge degree. He passed the examination required to obtain the license of the Society of Apothecaries in 1827, and in the following year obtained the membership of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. On the institution of the fellowship of the college, Shaw was elected one of the first batch of fellows on 11 Dec. 1843. He served on the college council from 1858 to 1865.

Shaw took an active part in the work of the London medical societies. At the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society he served the offices of hon. secretary, vice-president, and treasurer, and in the ‘Transactions’ of that society he published some valuable papers on rickets. Sir Charles Bell married Marion, Shaw's sister, on 3 June 1811. After the death of her husband in 1842 Lady Bell lived with her brother, and their house became a centre for the literary and scientific society of the period. In 1869 he republished Sir Charles Bell's ‘New Idea of the Anatomy of the Brain’ (originally published in a limited edition in 1811) with additions, consisting chiefly of selected passages bearing on the same subject written by Bell before the publication of the ‘New Idea’ (see Journ. of Anat. and Physiol., 1869, iii. 147, and Bell, Sir charles).

Shaw was a surgeon of repute, and, though incapacitated from work for some years before his death, never lost interest in his profession. He died 18 Jan. 1890, at the age of eighty-six. In 1856 Shaw married Susan Turner, the widow of Mr. J. Randall; the only issue of the marriage was a son who died in infancy. Mrs. Shaw died 18 March 1891. His principal works are: 1. ‘Narrative of the Discoveries of Sir Charles Bell in the Nervous System,’ 1839. 2. ‘Account of Sir Charles Bell's Classification of the Nervous System,’ 1844. 3. ‘On Sir Charles Bell's Researches in the Nervous System,’ 1847. 4. ‘An Account of Sir Charles Bell's Discoveries in the Nervous System,’ prefixed to the sixth edition of Bell ‘On the Hand,’ and also published separately. Shaw wrote the articles on ‘Injuries of the Back,’ ‘Diseases of the Spine,’ and ‘Distortion’ in Holmes's ‘System of Surgery.’

[Med. Chir. Trans. lxxiii. 23; Brit. Med. Journ. 1890, i. 393; Lancet, 1890, i. 327.]

J. B. B.