A graduate of Jefferson Medical School, Shenkin was trained in neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania. The fourth neurosurgeon to practice in Philadelphia, he achieved worldwide fame for his accomplishments. He established the first neurosurgical laboratory at Penn and received the first National Institutes of Health grant ever received at the university.
Shenkin was an early leader in the surgical approach to herniated discs, and performed the first arteriogram to identify an intercranial aneurysm.
He was also the first neurosurgeon to attack the basal ganglion nuclei to treat Parkinson's disease.
He left Penn to establish one of the busiest private practices in the country. Despite his clinical responsibilities, he continued his academic activities, establishing an accredited residency in neurosurgery at Episcopal Hospital. This was the only such program in the United States not affiliated with a university.
At Episcopal, he established a new neurosurgical research laboratory, specializing in the metabolism of neurosurgical disease and the treatment of intracranial pressure. He introduced the first CAT scanner in Philadelphia, which was also one of the first in the nation.
Shenkin retired from his academic positions and neurosurgical practice in 1982. In 2005, the Henry Shenkin Visiting Lectureship was established at Temple University's Department of Neurosurgery in his honor.
Over the course of his life he published more than 150 professional articles. He studied philosophy at Cambridge University and pursued a longstanding ambition to write about the subject. He published five books, including Medical Ethics: Evolution, Rights and the Physician and Current Dilemmas in Medical-Care Rationing.
A lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Shenkin graduated from Central High School, where he was captain of the tennis team and won an academic scholarship that he used for tuition at Penn. After his neurosurgical residency, he spent a year at Yale University.
The doctor is survived by daughters Kathy Seal and Emily Simon; sons Budd Shenkin and Bob Shenkin; 11 grandchildren; and his companion, Anne Glanz. His wife of 50 years, Renee Friedenberg Shenkin, died in 1989. His subsequent companion, Reva Kaplan, died in 2002.