Lives of the fellows

Edward Alfred Harris

b.19 July 1923 d.24 May 2016
MB ChB Liverp(1945) MRCP(1951) PhD Edin(1957) MD(1966) MRACP(1966) FRACP(1970)

Edward Alfred Harris died at home on 24 May 2016, aged 92 years. He had been unwell for several years. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and their two daughters, Gillian and Rosemary. We write to acknowledge his huge contribution to medical science, and his wonderful legacy as a teacher and mentor of young clinicians, including doctors, nurses, and cardio-pulmonary technologists.

Dr Harris (Ed) was born in St Helens, Lancashire, in 1923. He received a scholarship to study medicine at Liverpool University, graduating in 1945. He spent the next 5 years as a house physician and registrar in the Liverpool area, including 2 years in the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve. Between 1951 and 1964, Ed worked in Edinburgh as a medical registrar and as an MRC Fellow, completing his PhD (entitled The Measurement of Exercise Tolerance) in 1957. He spent time in Auckland between 1964 and 1968,as a physician in the Acute Respiratory Unit and then as physician in charge at the Clinical Physiology Department, at Green Lane Hospital.

He returned to Edinburgh as a consultant physician in the Respiratory Unit at the Northern General Hospital, between 1968 and 1970. During this time, he made a substantial contribution to two text books which became widely used in medical teaching world-wide: A Companion to Medical Studies, R Passmore and J S Robson (1968), and The Principles and Practice of Medicine, Davidson (1968).

Sir Brian Barratt-Boyes, Professor Jack Sinclair, and others worked to persuade Ed to return to Green Lane in 1970, and he continued his career in the Clinical Physiology Department until his retirement in 1988. He provided measurement skills and resources to the Respiratory Medicine and Cardiology Departments, and to the Cardio-Thoracic Surgical Unit. He published over 100 articles on medicine, physiology, laboratory methods and medical ethics; some of these are listed in Nigel Wilson’s volume Publications from Green Lane Hospital 1942-2003 (PCCS Publication, Auckland 2003). He was in the vanguard of an explosion in knowledge about cardio-pulmonary physiology. He had many collaborators, but arguably the most important were his dear friends, Eve Seelye and Toby Whitlock. Ed tutored, mentored and supervised hundreds of young students – both medical and technical. He was caring and generous. He helped many to advance their careers by lifting their expectations and involving them in research. He used his contacts to find places for his students in important departments overseas.

Ed met Barbara in a hospital in Cheshire in 1949. Barbara was born in Whakatane, and trained as a dietician in Auckland.

They married in 1950; Gillian was born in 1954, and Rosemary in 1958. They share their father’s love of music and both are professional musicians. Ed played the piano, and musically, was largely self- taught. He also had a great love of the English language and was a word-smith with a refined sense of humour. He was a stickler for correct grammar, at times to the point of splitting hairs.

Fowler’s Modern English Usage and Chambers Dictionary had pride of place on the bookshelves and were consulted at every turn. He always had a current copy of the Manchester Guardian Weekly, and was adept at the cryptic crosswords.

We held a memorial gathering at Green Lane Hospital, attended by many of his family and colleagues, when we celebrated and paid our respects to a great man.

Harry H Rea
Peter Ruygrok
Gillian Harris
Rosemary Harris

[www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2016/vol-129-no-1438-15- july-2016/6955; Reproduced, with permission, from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ College Roll]

(Volume XII, page web)

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