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Henry Harris (scientist)

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Title: Henry Harris (scientist)  
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Subject: Australian people of Russian-Jewish descent, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1968, Chemotaxis, Fellows of Lincoln College, Oxford
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Henry Harris (scientist)

Sir Henry Harris, FRS, FAA (28 January 1925 - 31 October 2014)[1] was an Australian professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, who led pioneering work on cancer and human genetics in the 1960s.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Works 3
    • Published works 3.1
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life and education

Harris was born in Russia in 1925 to a Jewish family. In 1929 the family emigrated to Australia.[2] Educated at Sydney Boys High School from 1937-1941,[3] he first read modern languages in 1941, but was subsequently attracted to medicine through his literary interests. He studied medicine at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and began a career in medical research rather than clinical practice.


In the early 1950s, Harris moved to England to study at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in Oxford under Howard Florey. He completed his DPhil in 1954 and settled down to a career of academic research. In 1960 he was appointed as head of the new department of cell biology at the John Innes Institute, and in 1964 he succeeded Florey as Head of the Dunn School, and in 1979 he was appointed as Oxford's Regius Professor of Medicine succeeding Sir Richard Doll.

Harris's research interests were primarily focused on cancer cells and of their differences from normal cells, and later on the possibilities of genetic modification of human cell lines with material of other species in order to increase the range of genetic markers. Harris and his colleagues developed some of the basic techniques for investigating and measuring genes along the human chromosome.

In 1965 he reported his observation that most nuclear RNA was non-coding, a view that was not widely accepted until years later.[4]

In 1969 Harris showed that when malignant cancer cells were fused with normal fibroblasts, the resulting hybrids were not malignant, thus demonstrating the existence of genes that had the ability to suppress malignancy. Work on these tumour suppressor genes has become a worldwide industry.

In 1983 Harris was elected to the Australian Academy of science as a Corresponding Fellow. In 1993 he was knighted.[2]

Much of Harris's work has been supported by Cancer Research UK (formerly the Cancer Research Campaign).

He died on 31 October 2014, aged 89.


Published works


  1. ^ Sir Henry Harris obituary
  2. ^ a b The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2014
  3. ^
  4. ^

External links

  • Henry Harris in the Oxford Brookes Medical Video Archive
  • History of the William Dunn School of Pathology in Oxford
  • Henry Harris archive collection - Wellcome Library finding aid
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