Born in Liverpool, John Alfred Lee was the eldest son of a well-known non-conformist minister. He was educated at Taunton School and read medicine at Durham University College of Medicine in Newcastle before becoming Resident Medical Officer at various hospitals and one of the first general practitioner anaesthetists at Southend General Hospital after its foundation in 1932.
His Synopsis of Anaesthesia was first published in January 1947. This gave practical advice on the administration of general, regional, spinal and extradural anaesthesia. It was translated into seven languages and Lee remained one of its authors until the tenth edition in 1987. It is now published as Lee’s Synopsis of Anaesthesia.
Lee opened the first British anaesthetic outpatients department in 1948. He was very interested in regional analgesia and was instrumental in keeping the practice of spinal and extradural analgesia alive. He retired in 1971 but continued working and teaching as a locum in Southend until after his 80th birthday. He was President of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland from 1986-88 and attended meetings of the Section of Anaesthetics of the Royal Society of Medicine until the month of his death, in April 1989.