Second President of
the Republic of Singapore
(2 Jan 1971 to 12 May 1981)
Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares was elected by the Parliament as President of the Republic of Singapore on 2 January 1971.
Dr Sheares was born on 12 August 1907 in Singapore. The son of a former Public Works Department Technical Supervisor, he rose to become Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Malaya in Singapore, a holder of five degrees, and one of the most highly respected men in his field.
Dr Sheares received his early education at the Methodist Girls' School, and later at St Andrew's School and Raffles Institution. He joined the King Edward VII College of Medicine in 1923, and qualified with the degree of L.M.S. in March 1929. After serving two years as Assistant Medical Officer at the Sepoy Lines (now Singapore) General Hospital, he began his career in obstetrics and gynaecology in April 1931.
In 1940, Dr Sheares was awarded the Queen's Fellowship to do a two-year postgraduate study in Britain, but he could not proceed owing to the outbreak of World War II. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, he was Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Kandang Kerbau Hospital, and also Medical Superintendent of the Hospital for the local patients' section. After the Japanese surrendered, he became the first Singapore-born doctor to be appointed acting Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the King Edward VII College of Medicine.
In May 1947, Dr Sheares proceeded to London for postgraduate study, and in January 1948, was the first Singapore obstetrician to qualify as member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of England. In March 1948, while studying for the degree of Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, he was recalled to Singapore to act as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In June 1948, he was also appointed Honorary Consultant at the British Military Hospital. His academic qualifications were L.M.S., M.D., M.S., F.R.C.O.G., F.A.C.S.
In 1951, Dr Sheares spent the remainder of the Queen's Fellowship due to him in several leading universities in the United States of America which concentrated on teaching post-graduate Obstetrics and Gynaecology and in research work in these subjects.
Dr Sheares held the post of Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Malaya in Singapore in January 1950 until June 1960, when he retired and went into private practice. Upon his retirement he became Honorary Consultant at the Kandang Kerbau Hospital, and retained close contact with the teaching of both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Dr Sheares had lectured in the United States and Britain and wrote many articles for international and local journals. As a personal obstetrician and gynaecologist to some members of the Malaysian royal families, he was made a Dato of Kedah and of Kelantan for his services. He was directly associated, as a gynaecologist, with the problems of family planning in Singapore. In early 1970, he was also appointed to the Committee on Medical Specialisation. He was conferred the following awards:
- D Litt (Hon Causa), (University of Singapore), 1970
- G C B (United Kingdom), 1972
- Star of the Republic of Indonesia Adipurna (Indonesia), 1974
- Honorary Fellow, Royal Society of Medicine, 1975
- Ancient Order of Sikatuna (Raja), (Republic of the Philippines), 1976
- Honorary Fellow, Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, 1976
Dr Sheares and his wife had three children. He passed away on 12 May 1981.