Gavin Francis

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Gavin Francis (born 1975) is a Scottish physician and a writer on travel and medical matters. He was raised in Fife, Scotland, and now lives in Edinburgh, where he works as a GP.[1] His books have won prestigious prizes.


Born in Fife in 1975, Francis studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, after which he worked in A&E at the old Royal Edinburgh Hospital.[2] After qualifying as a physician, Francis spent ten years travelling, during which time he visited all seven continents.[3] Francis has spent time working in India and Africa, has made several trips to the Arctic, and is reported to have crossed Eurasia and Australasia by motorcycle.[4]

Francis was working at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh when he decided to undertake a 15-month position as the resident doctor with the British Antarctic Survey.[5] He arrived at the Halley Research Station in Antarctica via the RRS Ernest Shackleton, a supply ship, on Christmas Eve, 2002, after a two-month voyage.[6]


Francis's experiences eventually formed the basis for his second book, Empire Antarctica (2012); his first book, True North:Travels in Arctic Europe (2008), detailed his experiences travelling in Arctic Europe from Unst to Svalbard.[7]

His Adventures in Human Being (2015) won the Saltire Prize for non-fiction and was a British Medical Association (BMA) book of the year.[8] Empire Antarctica was a shortlisted finalist for a number of book awards in 2013, including the Ondaatje Prize and the Saltire Prize, but received its most notable honour in November 2013 at the Lennoxlove Book Festival[9] when it was named the 2013 Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust's Scottish Book of the Year.[2]

Francis has been contributing articles and reviews to The Guardian since 2010,[10] the London Review of Books, and the New York Review of Books since 2013.[11] In addition to book reviews, his contributions occasionally consisted of prose ruminations on medical topics such as stethoscopes and the human brain, an approach that led to his being commissioned by the Wellcome Trust to produce a collection of essays in this style.



  • Adventures in Human Being (Profile Books 2015). ISBN 978-1781253410.
  • Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins (Chatto & Windus 2012). ISBN 978-0099565963.
  • True North: Travels in Arctic Europe (Polygon 2008, 2010). ISBN 978-1846971303.


  • Empire Antarctica: Eis, Totenstille & Kaiserpinguine (DuMont 2013). ISBN 978-3770182565. (German)

Awards and honours[edit]

  • 2013 Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year: Empire Antarctica[12]
  • 2013 Ondaatje Prize: Empire Antarctica (shortlist)[13]
  • 2013 Saltire Prize Book of the Year: Empire Antarctica (shortlist)[14]
  • 2013 Costa Book of the Year: Empire Antarctica (shortlist)[15]
  • 2013 Banff Mountain Book Competition: Empire Antarctica (shortlisted finalist)[16]


  1. ^ "Authors: Gavin Francis". Birlinn Ltd. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  2. ^ a b Ailes, Emma. "Ice Man: Edinburgh GP Gavin Francis on his year at the bottom of the world". BBC Scotland. BBC. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Gavin Francis". Vintage Books. The Random House Group. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Meet the Author: Gavin Francis, Empire Antarctica". Edinburgh City of Literature. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  5. ^ Davidson, Gina. "Gavin Francis: Dad, GP, and award-winning author". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  6. ^ Francis, Gavin. "Antarctic Holiday: A Christmas Feast In The Loneliest Spot On Earth". NPR. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  7. ^ Wheeler, Sara. "The Iceman Cometh". The Spectator. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  8. ^ London Review of Books, Vol. 39 No. 21 (2 November 2017), pp. 21–22 Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards". Lennoxlove Book Festival. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Author Profile: Gavin Francis". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  11. ^ "Contributors: Gavin Francis". London Review of Books. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Empire Antarctica named Scottish Book of the Year". BBC Scotland. BBC. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  13. ^ Flood, Alison. "Zadie Smith gains third literary honour this week". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  14. ^ "Saltire Scottish Book Awards 2013 winners". Publishing Scotland. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  15. ^ Copping, Jasper. "Costa Book Awards 2013: shortlists revealed". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  16. ^ "2013 BANFF MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL BOOK COMPETITION WINNERS". The Banff Centre. Retrieved 24 March 2015.

External links[edit]