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Biographical entry Burrows, Harold (1875 - 1955)

CBE 1919; MRCS 11 May 1899; FRCS 20 June 1901; LRCP 1899; MB London 1899; BS 1902; PhD 1938.

8 April 1875
29 September 1955
Experimental biologist and General surgeon


Born on 8 April 1875 in India, son of Surgeon-Major E P Burrows of the Bombay Army, Harold Burrows was educated at Marlborough and St Bartholomew's Hospital. His father had studied medicine there and two of his own sons followed him. At St Bartholomew's he was chiefly influenced by C B Lockwood and Sir Lauder Brunton. After qualifying in 1899 he became a prosector at the Royal College of Surgeons and was also an assistant editor of The Hospital. His first surgical appointment was in 1903 at the Bolingbroke Hospital, Wandsworth, and in 1905 he became senior assistant surgeon to the Seamen's Hospital, Greenwich. In 1907 he joined the staff of the Royal Portsmouth Hospital.

As a Territorial he was mobilised on the outbreak of the 1914-18 war, served in France with the 20th General Hospital and later became consultant surgeon to the First Army and to the Army of the Rhine, with the rank of Colonel. He was twice mentioned in dispatches and created CBE in 1919.

After the war he returned to Portsmouth, where he organised the collection of funds for providing orthopaedic clinics. In 1920 he was awarded the Jacksonian Prize of the Royal College of Surgeons for his essay, "The results and treatment of gun-shot injuries of the blood vessels". A regular worker in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons, Burrows was also a Hunterian Professor in 1922, 1933, and 1935. He published two very successful books: Pitfalls of Surgery, and Surgical Instruments and Appliances.

In 1925 a prolonged illness, following a heart attack, forced Burrows to give up surgery, and he became an experimental biologist at the research laboratories of the Royal Cancer Hospital, now the Chester Beatty Research Institute. His chief interest was the relation of sex hormones to the development of cancer, and he became an authority on the subject. At the age of 63 he obtained the PhD of London University. His major work The Biological Action of Sex Hormones was published in 1944 when Burrows was 69.

Burrows married in 1898 Lucy Mary, elder daughter of Henry Wheeler; they had two sons, one of whom is Harold Jackson Burrows FRCS, the orthopaedic surgeon. After the death of his first wife, Burrows married Gwendoline Mary, second daughter of Rear-Admiral O R Paul CBE; they had one son who died while a student at St Bartholomew's at the age of 22.

Burrows lived at 66 North Hill, N.6 until his retirement in 1945 when he moved to Marlborough, but continued his scientific writing. He died in St Bartholomew's Hospital on 29 September 1955, aged 80. He was a modest, friendly man.

Principal Publications:
"Tetanus" and "Gunshot wounds of blood vessels", in Barling and Morrison: Manual of war surgery, 1918.
Mistakes and accidents of surgery. 1923; second edition 1925, as Pitfalls of Surgery.
Surgical instruments and appliances used in operations. 1905; 14th edition with R W Raven, 1952.
The biological action of sex hormones. 1945; 2nd edition, 1949.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 30 September 1955 and 14th and 29th October; Lancet 1955. 2, 780, with portrait and appreciation by FRF; Brit med J 1955, 2, 914, with appreciation by MD; personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England