Lives of the fellows

Kenneth Edwin Harris

b.3 May 1900 d.23 October 1981
BA Cantab(1921) MRCS LRCP(1924) BChir MA(1925) MRCP(1926) MD(1929) FRCP(1934)

Kenneth Harris was born in Manchester where his father Thomas Harris MD FRCP, who died age 46, was a consultant physician at the Royal Infirmary. Through his mother, Isabel Maud Brockbank, he was related to two Fellows, namely his uncle Edward M Brockbank and his cousin William Brockbank.

Education at Shrewsbury led on to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and University College Hospital Medical School, where he gained two prizes and two medals. After house appointments to TR Elliott and CC Choyce (1924—1925), he became assistant to the Medical Unit 1926—1929, and then medical registrar to UCH from 1929-1932, being also clinical assistant to TF Cotton at the National Heart Hospital. He did research under Sir Thomas Lewis and jointly published 13 papers, chiefly on vascular responses of the skin. He married a fellow student, Edith Abbott, in 1932; they had no children. Also in 1932 he was appointed physician at UCH and he became senior physician at the age of 39, a post he held for 26 years. An appointment to the Royal Chest Hospital lasted from 1933 to 1945. His papers on heart disease included an important contribution on ‘Heart Disease in Pregnancy’.

His clinical work was in general medicine, with a special interest in cardiology, and he conscientiously looked after a large in and out patient practice at UCH, where he was especially noted for his excellent vocational teaching. His ward visits were always crowded, and students had to enter their names on a waiting list in order to take cases on them. He did much work as an undergraduate examiner in London, Bristol and Cambridge and to the Society of Apothecaries, and his involvement with the MRCP led to his election as a Censor in 1950 and Senior Censor in 1953.

He was much in favour of there being an Academy of Medicine in London, and was disappointed when others in the College aborted what he thought was a unifying concept. He developed a special interest in therapeutics and successfully campaigned for the retention of heroin in the pharmacopoeia, at a time when there was strong pressure to ban it from clinical practice because of the growing drug addiction problem.

He founded the Physician’s Dining Club at UCH, which was valuable in bringing together the academic and the hospital staff, and presided over it for several years. He and his wife had a great interest in the welfare of the students and junior staff, and their hospitality was generous. In spite of this he was not really close to either staff or students, due partly to lack of a sense of humour, and his colleagues often referred to him as the headmaster.

He had a large private practice and when he had patients in the UCH Private Wing, he meticulously paid his juniors for any services they rendered there. He and his wife died within one week of each other and they left £500,000 in their will, half of which went to the North London Collegiate School.

A Hollman

[Brit.med.J., 1982, 284, 754]

(Volume VII, page 248)

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