Happy Birthday Dr Aileen Adams, CBE, FRCA

Published: 05/09/2023
Formal portraiture of Dr Aileen Adams in her regalia as Dean.

RCoA President, Dr Fiona Donald, congratulates former Dean Dr Aileen Adams, CBE, FRCA, on her 100th birthday.

It is my great pleasure to congratulate Dr Aileen Adams, first and only female Dean of the Faculty of Anaesthetists at the Royal College of Surgeons 1985-88, on her 100th birthday this 5th September. Dr Adams gained early insight into medicine from her father who operated a single-handed GP practice in Sheffield and also performed dental anaesthetics at the Royal Hospital. Aileen entered Sheffield medical school during the Second World War and was one of around 6 women in a class of 30 students.  

Dr Adams qualified in 1945 and over the course of her career worked throughout the UK, America, and Denmark. She always operated at the cutting edge of science, working with other anaesthetic legends such as Dr Cecil Gray, Professor Keith Sykes, Dr Henry Beecher, and Dr Katharine Lloyd-Williams.  

 Dr Adams gave her first anaesthetics as a medical student and then as a surgical houseman, as was the norm at the time.  This was ether and chloroform with the occasional spinal anaesthetic for good measure.  After house jobs she went to a “proper” anaesthetic post at Cambridge and started on her long and illustrious career.   

Dr Adams retired from clinical practice in 1983. Since retiring she has taken an interest in the history of medicine and has served as President of the History of Anaesthesia Society, 1990-1992, the History of Medicine Society of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1994-1995, and the British Society for the History of Medicine, 2003-2005. 

The past one hundred years have seen great developments in our specialty, in no small part due to the work of Dr Adams. I congratulate her on a life so full of accomplishments that it is a wonder she could fit it all into a mere 100 years. 

Dr Fiona Donald, President RCoA, MB ChB, FRCA, EDAIC