About Professor Harris:
- Born: January 1940 New Malden, Surrey
- Educated: local schools before entering Tiffin School for Boys, Kingston upon Thames in 1951.
- 1958 Planned to enter University to read Botany but failed entrance examinations and joined local pharmacy as trainee dispenser. Discovered pharmacology so revised plans and completed educational requirements to enable me to read Pharmacy.
- 1960 Entered School of Pharmacy, Bradford.
- 1962 and 1963 won University prize for Pharmacology. In 1963 graduated, registered as a pharmacist and became Research Assistant working on aspects of the pharmacology of neuromuscular transmission.
- 1967 Graduated PhD, and was recruited to work in the Muscular Dystrophy Group Research Laboratories in the Dept of Neurology, Newcastle University.
- 1970-71 awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship to work in Dept of Pharmacology in University of Lund, Sweden.
- 1971 Returned to Newcastle as Senior Research Associate
- 1972 Became Principal Research Associate
- 1974 Appointed Senior Lecturer in Experimental Neurology at Newcastle University.
- 1977-1978 Awarded an MRC/NIH Fellowship to work in the Dept Pharmacology, UCLA, USA
- 1978 Returned to Newcastle
- 1979 Appointed Professor of Experimental Neurology
- 1980 Awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship to work in the Dept Physiology, Monash University, Australia
- 1981 Appointed Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Group Research Laboratories and Head of School of Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Psychiatry and Ophthalmology
- 2003 Retired from position as Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Group Research Laboratories and joined the Medical Toxicology Centre to help develop neurotoxicology.
- 2007 Retired and became Emeritus Professor. I have maintained an active interest in snake bite, natural toxins, and environmental toxicology as well as riding my horse (badly) and irritating my grandchildren (constantly).
My decision to change from botany to pharmacology was driven by two things: the discovery in a second hand library of a copy of AJ Clarke’s Applied Pharmacology and the excitement caused by the appearance during the 1950s and 1960s of the new antibiotics including chloramphenicol in 1949-1950, chlortetracycline and erythromycin in 1951-52, penicillanic acid (the forerunner of a vast range of semi-synthetic penicillins) in 1958 and ciprofloxin in 1968. The emerging problems of resistance were not seriously considered and some enthusiasts were of the opinion that we should soon be able to control all infectious disease.
I was never really interested in patients. Rather, I was interested in the interface between science and medicine and the importance of properly documenting the clinical syndrome in order to inform the gathering of the relevant scientific data. This approach has underpinned my whole approach to my work on the muscular dystrophies, snake bite and its interpretation and environmental toxicology.