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Biographical entry Harrison, George (1920 - 1997)

MRCS and FRCS 1945; MB ChB Leeds 1943.

3 January 1920
3 January 1997
General surgeon, Urological surgeon and Vascular surgeon


George Harrison was born on 3 January 1920 in Leeds. His father, also George Harrison, was an engineer. He was educated at Cockburn High School in Leeds and Leeds University Medical School, where he was strongly influenced by Archie Derwood, won the anatomy prize and at first intended to be an anatomist. As a student he often watched Beecham rehearsing his orchestra, which had been evacuated to Leeds. After house jobs in Leeds, he became a demonstrator in anatomy, and then did a junior job with Henry Hamilton Stewart in Bradford, who was one of the pioneers of transurethral prostatectomy by means of the cold punch. Henry Stewart was very impressed: George Harrison had extraordinary manual skill, being ambidextrous, he could write beautifully with either hand and was a successful amateur magician.

During the war he was not called up, but served as RSO in Bradford, which received large numbers of wounded after initial treatment in the South of England. He was appointed resident surgical officer and later first assistant to Henry Stewart in Leeds and ultimately returned to Leeds as surgical tutor. He was appointed consultant in Derby in 1952 at the Royal Infirmary, the City Children's Hospital and the City Hospital. He was a true general surgeon: he once likened surgery for oesophageal atresia to "sewing together two wet cigarette ends". He started vascular surgery in Derby when grafts were hand sewn from Terylene shirt tails, and he had to teach his radiologists how to do a translumbar aortogram in the post-mortem room. His main interest was in urology; he was renowned for his proficiency with the cold punch, only taking up the hot wire when the rod lens and fibre light became available.

He was an enthusiastic surgical traveller, became secretary of the Punch Club and President of the 1921 Surgical Club. He was always interested in teaching practical surgery and was proud that at least four of his trainees ultimately became professors of surgery.

In 1947, he married Muriel Robertshaw, a nurse he had met at Bradford. They had one daughter, Wendy and a son, G S M Harrison (Mark), who became a consultant urologist. He loved music, especially Mahler, played the piano occasionally, was a keen gardener, and was always making and mending things. He was made a senior Fellow of the British Association of Clinical Anatomists, and received the Silver Jubilee medal in 1977. Outwardly dour - one of his anaesthetists described his appearance as one of "diabolical discontent" - underneath there was a delightful and sympathetic sense of humour, but he could be very direct, especially if he smelt pomposity. In 1993, he suffered a massive coronary thrombosis with ventricular septal perforation and underwent two open heart operations. He died on 3 January 1997, on his 77th birthday, survived by his wife, children and grandchildren, Rachel, Ruth and Frances.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from his son, Mark Harrison].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England