Gordon worked as anaesthetist at St. Bartholomew's Hospital (where he was a medical student) and later as a ship's surgeon and as assistant editor of the British Medical Journal. He has published several technical books under his own name including Anaesthetics for Medical Students(1949); later published as Ostlere and Bryce-Smith's Anaesthetics for Medical Students in 1989, Anaesthetics and the Patient (1949) and Trichlorethylene Anaesthesia (1953). In 1952, he left medical practice and took up writing full time. He has an uncredited role as an anesthesiologist in the movie Doctor in the House.
The early Doctor novels, set in the fictitious St Swithin's, a teaching hospital in London, were initially witty and apparently autobiographical; later books included more sexual innuendo and farce. The novels were very successful in Britain in Penguin paperback during the 1960s and 1970s. Richard Gordon also contributed to Punch magazine and has published books on medicine, gardening, fishing and cricket.
The film adaptation of Doctor in the House was released in 1954, two years after the book, while Doctor at Sea came out the following year with Brigitte Bardot. Dirk Bogarde starred as Dr. Simon Sparrow in both. The later spin-off TV series were often written by other well-known British comic performers.[