S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Stibbe, Prof Edward Philip (anatomy)

Born: 12 November 1884, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
Died: 24 July 1943, Gerrard's Cross, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom.

Edward Philip Stibbe, anatomist, was the eldest son of Godfrey Stibbe and his wife Sophia Dennis. He received his school education in Glasgow and Leicester, studied medicine at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School, London, and qualified as a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London (LRCP) and Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (MRCS) in 1908. After working as government medical officer at Fiji for some years he came to South Africa in 1912 to take up the post of district medical officer at Vosburg, Northern Cape. From 1915 to 1918, during World War I (1914-1918) he was medical officer at the First Northern General Hospital at Newcastle upon Tyne and demonstrator of anatomy at the University of Durham College of Medicine. In July 1919 he was appointed as the first professor of anatomy at the South African School of Mines and Technology, which became the University of the Witwatersrand in 1922, and served also as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

Stibbe's earliest scientific work was a study of the internal mammary lymph glands with special reference to cancer of the breast. This work resulted in a paper on 'The internal mammary lymphatic glands' in the Journal of Anatomy (1918). Thereafter he became interested in physical anthropology and while at Vosburg carried out pioneering head measurements on local African groups. The results of these studies were later used in his textbook, An introduction to physical anthropology (1930; 2nd ed. 1938).

In 1900 Stibbe married Celia Evelyn Rail, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. However, in 1921 he had an affair with the university's head typist, Miss Florence Kate Roy. As a result of strong disapproval of his behaviour expressed by the principal and council, he resigned his post with effect from 1 July 1922. He started an orthopaedic practice in Johannesburg, but in July 1923 returned to Britain. Meanwhile he had been divorced and in 1924 married Miss Roy.

After his return to Britain Stibbe qualified as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (FRCS) in 1925 and was successively demonstrator in anatomy at the University of Durham, lecturer in anatomy at the University of Liverpool, and senior demonstrator at University College, London, and at the London Hospital. In 1935 he was appointed university reader in anatomy and medical tutor at King's College, University of London, where he was promoted to professor in 1938. He held this position until his death in 1943. During his career in Britain he won a considerable reputation as a teacher of undergraduate students and served as an examiner in anatomy at various institutions. He made significant contributions to anatomy teaching (in addition to the physical anthropology textbook mentioned above) as editor of two textbooks: Practical anatomy by six teachers (1932), and Anatomy for dental students by six teachers (1934). His research papers included 'The accessory pulmonary lobe of the vena azygos' (Journal of Anatomy, 1919), 'A comparative study of the nictitating membrane of birds and mammals' (Ibid, 1928), 'Sensory components of the motor nerves of the eye' (Ibid, 1929), 'Some observations on the surgery of trigeminal neuralgia' (British Journal of Surgery, 1936), and many more.

List of sources:

Google Scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by E.P. Stibbe.

In Memoriam: Edward Philip Stibbe, FRCS, Professor of Anatomy, University of London, 1884-1943. Journal of Anatomy, 1944, Vol. 78(1-2), p. 58.

Murray, B.K. Wits, the early years. A history of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and its precursors, 1896-1939. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1982.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Edward Philip Stibbe.

Tobias, P.V. History of physical anthropology in southern Africa. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 1985, Vol. 28, pp. 1-52.

Tobias, P.V. The role of R.B. Thomson and E.P. Stibbe, brief heralds of the science of anatomy in South Africa. South African Medical Journal, 6 October 1990, Vol. 78, pp. 426-430.

Who was who, Vol. 4 (3rd ed.) London: Adam & Black, 1964.

Compiled by: C. Plug