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Biographical entry Stoner, Harry Berrington (1919 - 2004)

MRCS and FRCS 1982; BSc Sheffield 1939; MB ChB 1942; MD 1946; MRCPath 1966; LRCP 1982; FRCPath 1978.

1 February 1919
Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK
9 July 2004
Salford, UK
Trauma researcher


Harry Berrington ‘Berry’ Stoner was a world authority in the much-neglected field of trauma research. He was born in Sheffield on 1 February 1919, the son of Harry John Stoner, a dental surgeon, and Elizabeth née Spriggs. He graduated with many medals and honours from Sheffield University Medical School in 1942, and soon afterwards was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He joined the biological research staff pool of the War Office and was seconded to the department of pathology at Sheffield University to work under the direction of Harry Green who headed a Medical Research Council group investigating aspects of the response to injury. As the war progressed this group was incorporated into the Army and Stoner was promoted to the rank of Captain with the No. 2 traumatic shock team, which carried out field research on injured soldiers in north west Europe during campaigns such as the Rhine crossing. The work he undertook was of such quality that he was able to proceed to an MD in 1946, the year he was demobilised.

He immediately returned to the department of pathology at Sheffield University as a member of the MRC external scientific staff. He continued his interest in injury, which had been stimulated by his war experiences, and from 1948 to 1949 held a Rockefeller travelling fellowship in medicine at Harvard University.

In 1953 he was appointed as head of the MRC experimental pathology of trauma unit, which was part of the toxicology research unit at Carshalton. Here he further developed Cutherbertson’s theory of the ebb and flow responses to injury. During this time he was UK representative on the scientific sub-committee of the Council of Europe. The work on shock at Carshalton was of the highest quality and the focus of worldwide attention, but after 20 years was reaching its limits because it was confined to animal experimentation. For it to progress it was obviously necessary to transfer it to a clinical environment.

The mid 1970s were years when a major expansion of UK medical schools was taking place. In 1977 the opportunity afforded by the establishment by the University of Manchester of a new university hospital at Hope Hospital, Salford, was taken to link Stoner’s unit with an academic department of surgery with an interest in surgical metabolism and trauma. As a consequence Manchester University gained its first MRC unit with the creation of the trauma unit, with laboratories in both the medical school and at Hope Hospital.

The work of the unit thrived and it attracted medically qualified research fellows who studied the early responses to injury in the accident and emergency department, the intermediate metabolic and physiological consequences in the intensive care unit, and the late sequalae such as sepsis in a purpose-built surgical high dependency unit. This latter subsequently developed into the UK’s first clinical intestinal failure unit. The collaboration between a team of MRC-employed basic scientists and academic clinicians was an exemplar of how clinical research should be conducted, and many clinically relevant findings were produced. Amongst these were the demonstration of the case against the prevailing concept of injury and sepsis induced hyper-metabolism, which had resulted in injured and septic patients being given enormous calorie loads. The development of an acclaimed sepsis scoring system and the consequent demonstration of glucose intolerance in injury and sepsis with its associated hyperventilation and the necessity for the use of lipids as a source of energy provision in such cases were major clinical outcomes of Stoner’s work.

It was no surprise that Stoner was awarded an honorary professorship in surgical science, a Fellowship of the College (which also made him a Hunterian professor) and numerous eponymous lectureships, including the Royal College of Pathologists’ Roy Cameron lecture in 1985.

Berry Stroner inspired affection and fierce loyalty from everyone who worked for and with him. His trainees have continued his work on the physiological and metabolic responses to injury and, through his principal protégé and successor Roderick Little, have ensured that the developing specialty of emergency medicine has a sound scientific basis. He retired in 1984, but continued research work for many years, working in collaboration with vascular surgeons.

He was a devout Catholic, a Francophile and a talented artist, a skill he pursued in retirement. This culminated in a one-man show in Manchester to celebrate 100 years of the Entente Cordiale, at which he delivered his speech in French. He leaves a daughter (Susan), two grandchildren (Amanda and Emma) and three great grandchildren (Hannah, Matthew and Daniel). He died on 9 July 2004 in Hope Hospital.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Personal information from Sir Miles Irving and Susan Barnes.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England