Arthur Rendle Short

Arthur Rendle Short

Arthur Rendle Short (d. September 14 1953) was a professor of surgery at Bristol University and author. He also has the distinction of being the man who encouraged suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams to practice medicine in Eastbourne. [Cullen, 2006]


Short was born in Bristol, the son of E. Rendle Short, the director of Fry's chocolate.Times, September 15 1953, p. 8] Arthur's academic achievements included a First class honours in geology, anatomy and also obstetrics.

Short wrote various medical books, and many books on Christian apologetics, with a special interest in creation and evolution. He was a member of the Plymouth Brethren and also a much-in-demand speaker in Brethren and InterVarsity Fellowship circles. [] He was ex-Hunterian professor of the Royal College of Surgeons and was Professor of Surgery at the University of Bristol until he retired in 1948. The Times goes on to describe him as "a simple-minded man, in the sense that he never saw evil in anyone.

Like his father, he became a member of the Plymouth Brethren. Arthur was also the founder of the "Inter-Varsity Fellowship", a worldwide Christian organisation for University students. Whilst visiting European cities for medical conferences he also often took the opportunity to speak to students about his Christian beliefs.

The Times describes him as being a "clear thinker, with quick perception", very direct in his manner, and someone who loved the countryside.

John Bodkin Adams

In 1920, Rendle Short gave a lecture at a missionary study-class conference in Larne, County Antrim. It was attended by a young John Bodkin Adams, also a Plymouth Brethren, who was studying medicine at the University of Belfast. His uncle John Bodkin had been a famous missionary and later mandarin in China. Hearing of this connection, Rendle Short offered Adams a position as assistant houseman at Bristol Royal Infirmary. Adams however did not prove a success.

One Sunday in 1922 at a Brethren meeting, Rendle Short handed Adams an advert his wife had seen in a Christian weekly - a position as a general practitioner in Eastbourne. Reluctantly Adams took the hint, applied and was hired. Adams would go on to develop a successful career there, specially in treating ageing widows, and became the richest doctor in Britain. [Cullen, 2006]

In 1956, Adams was arrested in Eastbourne for the murders of Edith Alice Morrell and Gertrude Hullett. He was tried on the former count in 1957 but controversially acquitted, the Hullett case was then dropped. Adams was charged on 14 minor criminal acts and struck off the medical register later that year. He was reinstated in 1961. Despite never being found guilty of murder, Home Office pathologist Francis Camps suspected Adams of killing 163 patients. [Cullen, 2006]

Rendle Short died on September 14 1953, before the trial of his 'protege' [] .


He married Helen Case, and they had one son and two daughters, all of whom became medics. His son Tyndale John Rendle-Short AM FRCP, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Queensland and specialises in child autism. He spells his name with a hyphen.


Rendle Short had many problems reconciling the discoveries of Darwin with his beliefs as a Brethren member. His son wrote::‘How could the Fall of man have brought sin and death into the world, if the fossils were showing a creation ‘groaning’ for millions of years before man? How could man be both a rising ape and a fallen image? These were agonizing questions for my father.’

Published works

*"The principles of Christians called "Open Brethren", by a younger brother", (1914) Glasgow, Pickering & Inglis

*"The Historic Faith in the Light of Today", (1922)

*"Young believers and assembly life, etc", (1925) London, Pickering & Inglis

*"The Bible and Modern Research", (1933)

*"Why Believe?", (1938/1951)

*"Modern Discovery and the Bible", (1942)

*"Wonderfully Made", (1951)

*"The Bible and Modern Medicine", (1951)

*"Archaeology gives Evidence", (1951)

*"The Rock Beneath", (1955)


*Cullen, Pamela V., "A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams", London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9

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