60 YEARS OF NEUROENDOCRINOLOGY: MEMOIR: Geoffrey Harris and my brush with his unit

    1. Geoffrey Raisman
    1. Spinal Repair Unit, Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to G Raisman; Email: G.Raisman{at}ucl.ac.uk


    Geoffrey Harris is chiefly known for his demonstration of the control of the pituitary gland by the portal vessels coming from the hypothalamus. This does not do justice to his extraordinary contribution to biology. Harris' life's work was central in demonstrating the brain/body interactions by which animals and humans adapt to their environment, and above all the control of that most crucial and proximate of all evolutionary events – reproduction. In this brief review, I have tried to put Geoffrey Harris' work in the context of the scientific thinking at the time when he began his work, and above all, the contribution of his mentor, FHA Marshall, on whose towering shoulders Harris rose. But this is mainly my personal story, in which I have tried to show the debt that my work owed to Harris and especially to my dear friend, the late Keith Brown-Grant in Harris' team. I myself was never an endocrinologist, but over a short period in the early 1970s, under the influence of such inspirational mentors, and using purely anatomical methods, I was able to demonstrate sexual dimorphism and hormone-dependent sexual differentiation in the connections of the preoptic area, regeneration of the median eminence, the ultrastructure of apoptosis, the requirement for the suprachiasmatic nuclei in reproductive rhythms, the existence of non-rod or cone photoreceptors in the albino rat retina and, later, the expression of vasopressin by solitary (one in 600) magnocellular neurons in the polydipsic di/di Brattleboro mutant rat; this phenomenon was subsequently shown to be due to a+1 reading frameshift. I end this brief overview by mentioning some of the abiding and fascinating mysteries of the endocrine memory of the brain that arise from Harris' work on the control of the endocrines, and by pointing out how the current interest in chronobiology emphasises what a Cinderella the endocrine mechanisms have become in current brain imaging studies.

    • Received in final form 30 January 2015
    • Accepted 10 February 2015
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