Lives of the fellows

George Harley

b.12 February 1829 d.27 October 1896
MD Edin FRCP Edin FRCP(1864) FRS

George Harley was born at Haddington in East Lothian, the only son of George Barclay Harley and his wife Margaret Macbeath, and educated there and at Edinburgh. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University and graduated in 1850. Before this, he had distinguished himself by delivering a living child by Caesarean section after the sudden death of its mother from cardiac failure. After being resident surgeon and physician at Edinburgh Infirmary, Harley studied physiology and chemistry in Paris, demonstrating, among other observations, the presence of iron as a constant constituent of urine. Later he worked under Magendie and Claude Bernard, particularly on sugar metabolism. He then spent two years in Germany, working with Scherer, Liebig, K├Âlliker and Virchow, and, on his return in 1855, became lecturer on practical physiology and histology at University College, London. Four years later he was made professor of medical jurisprudence and in 1860 physician to the Hospital. In 1862 he received the triennial prize of the Royal College of Surgeons for his work on the anatomy and physiology of the suprarenal bodies. His later researches ranged over a wide field, including native arrow poisons, but his name was chiefly associated with his studies of the liver and its functions, and Diseases of the Liver, published in 1883, was probably his most important book. Harley was a man who suffered much from ill health. For nine months, following a retinal haemorrhage and glaucoma, he lived in two completely darkened rooms, thereby recovering his sight, and later he was afflicted with a form of paralysis. But his resolution and scientific ardour enabled him to brush aside his disabilities, and he always remained a cheery and stimulating influence. He was the inventor of a microscope and an enthusiast for the reform of English spelling. He married Emma Jessie, daughter of James Muspratt, of Seaforth Hall, near Liverpool; they had three children. He died at Harley Street, London.

G H Brown

[B.M.J., 1896; D.N.B., 1st Suppl., ii, 392]

(Volume IV, page 141)

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