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Biographical entry Harrison, Robert (1796 - 1858)

MRCS April 6th 1822; FRCS Dec 11th 1843 one of the original 300 Fellows; AM MD Trinity College Dublin 1837; President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.

23 April 1858
General surgeon


Born in Cumberland. His father, having business relations with Ireland, decided to send his son to Dublin for his education. He therefore apprenticed him in August, 1810, to Abraham Colles, who described the injury to the lower end of the radius now known as 'Colles's fracture'. Harrison thus became a student at Steevens' Hospital, where his master was Surgeon. He graduated BA at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1814, proceeded MB in 1824, and took the MD in 1837.

He came to London in 1814, acted as dresser to Benjamin Travers at St Thomas's Hospital, and, returning to Dublin in the following year, was admitted a Licentiate of the Irish College of Surgeons, of which he was elected a Member on June 9th, 1818. He was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy in the College School in 1817 and Professor of Anatomy and Physiology on Aug 4th, 1827. He became Professor of Anatomy and Chirurgery in the School of Physic at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1887 in succession to James Macartney. After serving as one of the Assistants and as Secretary of the Irish College of Surgeons, he was elected President for the year 1848-1849. He was appointed Assistant Surgeon to Steevens' Hospital, Dublin, on Sept 4th, 1856, on the promotion of James William Cusack to the office of full Surgeon; but his connection with the hospital was of short duration, for he died seven months later; his widow presented to the hospital a large collection of surgical and anatomical plates which he had used in his lectures. He was for many years one of the Hon Secretaries of the Royal Dublin Society.

He married Anne, daughter of the Rev Jonathan Cape, Rector of Ahascragh, Co Galway, a sister of Mrs Abraham Colles. He died of apoplexy at his residence, 1 Hume Street, Dublin, on April 23rd, 1858, and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery. His son, Captain Harrison, held an appointment at Dublin Castle.

Professor Alexander Macalister says of Harrison; "He was a man destitute of an original idea, but with a marvellous facility of making up any subject for lecture, and with a fluent, oratorical delivery. He lacked, however, a general knowledge of practical anatomy, and though he had compiled from Cruveilhier and Cloquet that dreary book, The Dublin Dissector, yet his knowledge never rose even to the level of his text-book. We look in vain in the University Museum for any traces of his work." It must, however, be remembered that Harrison succeeded to the post so ably filled by Professor Macalister's hero - Dr James Macartney.

Surgical Anatomy of the Arteries, 2 vols; 4th ed., 1839.
The Dublin Dissector was published in 1829 under his own name, an earlier edition having been published anonymously by "MRCSI". The book served for more than seventy years as a guide for students not only in Ireland but in England and in America.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Cameron's History of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, Dublin, 1886. Kirkpatrick's History of Doctor Steevens' Hospital 1720-1920, Dublin, 1924. Alexander Macalistcr's James Macartney, London, 1900].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England