60 YEARS OF NEUROENDOCRINOLOGY: MEMOIR: working in the ‘Huts’ with the professor: the first Maudsley years

    1. Seymour Reichlin
    1. Professor of Medicine, Emeritus, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to S Reichlin; Email: seymourreichlin{at}gmail.com

    During the first 2 years of Geoffrey Harris' tenure as Fitzmary Professor of Physiology, University of London (1952–1962), I was one of the four fellows in his laboratory based in the ‘Huts’, two prefabricated buildings on the grounds of Maudsley Hospital, South London. Peter Fawcett, a later collaborator, remarked, ‘It was an enigma to me why this eminent man should be stuck in a bunch of ex-army huts in the grounds of a nuthouse’ (Wade 1981). ‘The Professor’ was the way that my fellow graduate student Keith Brown-Grant referred to him. Harris had one secretary who handled all business of the laboratory, correspondence and manuscripts, one animal caretaker, one laboratory technician responsible for histological preparations and one machinist/instrument maker responsible for the fabrication of items such as electrodes and physiological equipment. There were no facilities for chemical analysis, or tissue or cell culture.

    Fawcett should not have been surprised at the laboratory's modesty. In 1952, when Harris had moved from Cambridge, England was still struggling to recover from the ravages of World War II. It was in fact remarkable to find Harris' laboratory, arguably the leading neuroendocrine research programme in the world, functioning at all. The difficulties of doing research during the war, Harris once told me, were tremendous. He would buy rabbits for his studies in Cambridge from local farms, carrying them back to the laboratory in a basket on his bicycle. Microscope slides were in short supply, and he had to scrape and reuse them. Also, little was published due to restrictions on paper and supplies. The state of knowledge, and our research methods, was primitive by today's standards. We worked before the dawn of molecular biology (Watson & Crick 1953), before any peptide had been sequenced (Du Vignaud et al. 1953a,b), before the …

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