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Biographical entry Hartley, Sir Frank (1911 - 1997)

KT 1977; CBE 1970; Hon FRCS 1980; BSc London 1936; PhD 1941; Hon DSc Warwick 1978; Hon LLD Strathclyde 1980; Hon LLD London 1987; Hon FRCP 1979; Hon FRSC 1981; CChem; FRPharmS.

5 January 1911
Nelson, Lancashire
26 January 1997


Sir Frank Hartley was a pharmacist who distinguished himself in research, industry, education and in academic administration. His major contributions to medicine and to medical education were recognised by the College by his election to the honorary Fellowship in 1980, shortly after he had demitted office as Vice-Chancellor of London University.

Frank was born in Nelson, Lancashire, on 5 January 1911. His father R K Hartley, a plumber, died when he was five years old, leaving his mother Ann (née Holt) to bring him up in straitened circumstances. Starting with a three year apprenticeship and long hours of evening study, he obtained the diploma of the Pharmaceutical Society as a chemist and druggist. He went on to part-time study at Birkbeck College, where he graduated in 1936, before proceeding to a PhD. He became chief chemist to the Organon Laboratories in 1940, then worked for the Ministry of Supply on penicillin.

After the war, he joined the British Drug Houses and played a major part in the development of oral contraceptives, although later in life he came to regret the social changes which these drugs had facilitated. He became Dean of the School of Pharmacy in 1962 and Vice-Chancellor of London University in 1976. He was President of the Royal Society of Chemistry from 1965 to 1967, and in subsequent years was an active and loquacious member of many government committees, most notably the Medicines Commission from 1974 to 1983. He served on the councils of two medical schools and of the British Postgraduate Medical Federation, continuing participation in university affairs for many years after formal retirement.

His wife Lydia, whom he married in 1937, predeceased him by one year. He died on 26 January 1997. His son Frank is now Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 25 February 1997; The Independent 19 February 1997].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England