Lives of the fellows

Peter Charles Harris

b.26 May 1923 d.11 December 2002
MB BS Lond(1946) MRCP(1950) MD(1951) PhD(1955) FRCP(1965)

Peter Charles Harris was the first Simon Marks professor of cardiology at the University of London. He was born in London, the son of David Jonathan Valentine Harris, an electrical engineer, and Nellie Dean Harris née Blakemore, the daughter of a carpenter. He was educated at St Olave’s Grammar School, and then went to King’s College London on a science scholarship.

He held house appointments at King’s College Hospital, Royal Portsmouth Hospital, Brompton and Central Middlesex. He was then a medical registrar at King’s to the heart specialist Terence East [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.157], who encouraged Harris to specialise in cardiology. In 1957, he was appointed as a lecturer and honorary consultant physician at Birmingham, and subsequently became a senior lecturer and then, from 1962, a reader. In 1966 he became the Simon Marks professor of cardiology at the National Heart Hospital.

Until 1966 Harris’ research was based on conventional haemodynamic measurements, the study of the circulation of blood to the lung and the metabolism of heart muscle. He studied animals, including llamas and yaks, and humans at altitude in the Andes and later in Tibet, investigating the function of the right ventricle of the heart and the blood flow to the lungs. With Donald Heath [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.207] he wrote The human pulmonary circulation: its form and function in health and disease (Edinburgh, London, E & S Livingstone Ltd, 1962), which became the authoritative text on the subject for a quarter of a century. Later in his research career Harris focused on the biochemistry of the heart, and set up a research programme to determine the biological nature of abnormalities in this muscle.

He was vice president (from 1972 to 1976) and then secretary (from 1976 to 1980) of the European Society of Cardiology, and president of the International Society for Heart Research (from 1981 to 1983).

Outside medicine, he was a violinist, an artist, a traveller and humorist. Following his retirement in 1988, he lived in Venice, London and Florida. In 1952 he married Felicity Margaret Hartridge, the daughter of Hamilton Hartridge, an eye physiologist. They had two daughters. In 1989 he married for a second time, to Francesca. He was survived by his wife, two stepsons and his two daughters.

RCP editor

[Heart June 1966, p.7; The Times 14 February 2003]

(Volume XII, page web)

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