Lives of the fellows

Robert John Harrison

b.15 October 1905 d.27 May 1988
MRCS LRCP(1937) MRCP(1943) FRCP(1961)

Robert Harrison was born in London, the son of Charles Harrison, a builder. He was educated at Sir George Monoux Grammar School and studied medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, qualifying with the joint diploma in 1937. Six years later he obtained his membership of the College.

Ill health, due to surgery for renal calculi, caused his rejection for military service during the war, but he was active in the Emergency Medical Service. Junior hospital appointments included that of lecturer in the department of medicine at the Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, and with the inception of the NHS he was appointed consultant physician at Fulham Hospital in 1948. In 1951 he was appointed to the staff of St James Hospital, Balham, where he served until his retirement in 1970. After retirement he undertook several locum appointments and in 1975 he was instrumental in helping to establish the Worthing Postgraduate Medical Centre, organizing meetings and inviting speakers from his wide circle of distinguished colleagues.

Widely known as ‘Happy’ Harrison, he was a committed and supremely well informed clinician with a ‘nose’ for the unusual. His junior staff were devoted to him and under his teaching, at which he excelled, several obtained their membership of the College and became physicians themselves. ‘Happy’ greatly enjoyed serving as examiner for the College, and he kept in contact with the Royal Postgraduate Medical School where he was regularly to be seen at the Wednesday morning staff rounds. He had worked as a lecturer in Sir John McMichael’s department and enjoyed the cut and thrust of these meetings throughout his professional career. Near retirement he worked for the Hospital Advisory Service and greatly enjoyed the visits to other units.

As a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine he was exceptionally active, being a member of council, a president of the clinical section, and vice-president of the section of medicine. In 1969 he was elected an honorary member of the clinical section, the first fellow to have been so honoured. He published articles on a variety of topics, including the first described case of Q-fever endocarditis.

Harrison was a quiet, rather shy and private person. He coped with increasing deafness, and then his prolonged final illness, with characteristic fortitude and good humour. His work, clinical medicine, was also his hobby, which he discharged with great enthusiasm and he contributed much to the profession. He married late and was survived by his widow.

M Dulake

[Brit.med.J., 1989,298,520]

(Volume VIII, page 212)

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