Lives of the fellows

Roger Michael Hardisty

b.19 September 1922 d.18 September 1997
MRCS LRCP( 1944) MB BS Lond(1945) MRCP(1949) MD(1950) FRCPath(1966) FRCP(1970)

Roger Hardisty was the first specialist to be solely concerned with paediatric haematology in Britain. He was educated at Oundle School and, following the early death of his father, went straight to St Thomas’s Hospital. His house jobs were followed immediately by National Service at the end of the war, when he met and subsequently married his Danish wife, Jytte. He returned to the Jenner Laboratories at St Thomas’s where he worked with Gordon Wetherley-Mein [Munk’s Roll Vol.VIII, p.526] and Ilsley Ingram, developing an interest in haematology and in particular haemostasis.

After a brief spell in Cardiff, he returned to London as the first consultant haematologist at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, where he spent almost thirty years. Despite the absence of any formal paediatric training, or, during half his time at Great Ormond Street, any access to in-patient facilities, he developed an international reputation in paediatric haematology, being appointed professor of haematology in the Institute of Child Health in 1969.

His clinical and research interests lay in the fields of haemostasis and childhood leukaemia and he made significant and original contributions to both. His early collaboration with Ron Hutton led to the development of partial thromboplastin time and thus, as he was wont to remark, to his most cited publication and a screening test for coagulation disorders which is still in routine use today. As director of the biggest children’s haemophilia unit in the UK he was involved in the introduction of treatment with cryoprecipitate, an innovation which marked the first step towards a normal life for haemophiliac boys. His lasting interest however was the investigation of platelet function, work which led to a string of notable publications, including the elucidation of the platelet defects in albinism and the Bernard Soulier syndrome, and, as the understanding of the subject broadened, more esoteric papers on activation, calcium mobilization and membrane glycoproteins. These research interests were strengthened by a sabbatical year in mid-career in Paris.

The most pressing clinical needs however at Great Ormond Street were those of children with leukaemia. Working with Morwenna Till, and with support from the Leukaemia Research Fund from the time of its inception, he made a number of original contributions to the understanding and management of the disease, including the first paper on prognostic factors, the identification of central nervous system leukaemia, and the identification of what is now classified as juvenile chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia. His observations with Morwenna that long survival was possible in a tiny minority of patients diagnosed in the 1960s were converted to the realization, by the time of retirement, that cure was possible for many. An early disciple of multi-centre trials, he realized that no one hospital could go it alone, and was one of the core members of the Medical Research Council’s working party on childhood leukaemias, subsequently serving as secretary and then taking on the role of chairman.

Thanks to his support the unit at Great Ormond Street expanded to provide comprehensive care for both children with leukaemia and those with other cancers, and developed an active bone marrow transplant programme. By the time of his retirement new wards and laboratories were planned and he was able to see both in active use.

After retirement he continued his research on platelet disorders as a senior fellow at the Royal Free Hospital and continued writing and publishing until the time of his death from stomach cancer. His last contribution was an impeccably written chapter on bleeding disorders for a textbook on paediatric haematology.

A quiet and modest man, his strengths lay in critical evaluation of projects and papers, a task at which he excelled and to which he was generous with time and effort. These skills naturally found an outlet as editor of the British Journal of Haematology and as co-editor with David Weatherall of the textbook Blood and its disorders, Oxford, Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1974. He was a supportive mentor and many of his trainees became paediatric haematologists and oncologists, both in the UK and abroad. He served as president of the British Society for Haematology and several other societies.

He inspired great affection in his patients and their families; a surprise party was held by them for him at the time of his retirement and ten years later, at his memorial service, a number of families came to remember him.

Judith M Chesells

[The Independent, 24 Sept 1997; Brit.med.J., 1995,315,955]

(Volume X, page 191)

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