Harley Lecture Notes

Scope and Content

Volume of manuscript lecture notes, 1855-1856, made by George Harley from lectures on experimental chemistry at Giessen University (Germany).

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in Haddington, East Lothian, 1829; educated at the Haddington burgh schools, the Hill Street Institution, Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh; graduated MD, 1850; acted for fifteen months as house surgeon and resident physician to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary; spent two years in Paris, working in the physiological and chemical laboratories of Charles Dollfus, Verdeil, and Charles-Adolphe Wurtz; his many observations were recorded in the 'Chimie Anatomique', notably the recognition of iron as a constant constituent of the urine, and the observation that the cherry colour of normal human urine was due to urohaematin; worked in the physiological laboratory of the Collge de France, at first under Franois Magendie and then under Claude Bernard, whose publications led Harley to undertake research on the effects of stimulation of nerves on the production of sugar by the liver; during his two years in Paris, almost entirely occupied with physiological research; elected annual president of the Parisian Medical Society, 1853; spent time in Germany at the universities of Wrzburg (under Rudolf Virchow), Giessen (under Justus von Liebig), Berlin, Vienna, and Heidelberg; while studying in Vienna, during the Crimean War, attempted to join the army of Omar Pasha as a civil surgeon but, travelling with an irregular passport, was arrested and narrowly escaped being shot as a spy; appointed lecturer on practical physiology and histology at University College London, 1855; also curator of the anatomical museum at University College London; started practice in Nottingham Place, 1856; elected a fellow of the Chemical Society and fellow of the College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 1858; read at the Leeds meeting of the British Association a paper showing that pure pancreatine was capable of digesting both starchy and albuminous substances; became Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at University College London, 1859; became editor of a new year-book on medicine and surgery brought out by the New Sydenham Society, aiming to keep an epitome of science applied to practical medicine, 1859; became physician to the University College Hospital, 1860; received the triennial prize of fifty guineas from the Royal College of Surgeons of England for research into the anatomy and physiology of the suprarenal bodies, 1862; elected fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, 1864; later examiner in anatomy and physiology in the Royal College of Physicians; active in the committee of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society appointed to study the subject of suspended animation by drowning, hanging, etc, with its experiments carried out in his laboratory at University College London, 1864; experiments for the Society's committee on chloroform were also carried out there, 1864; his research while studying in Robert Bunsen's laboratory at Heidelberg on the methods of gas analysis and, after his return to England, research on the chemistry of respiration, was instrumental in his election to the fellowship of the Royal Society, 1865; active in founding the British Institute of Preventive Medicine; conducted research into the action of various poisons, and was the first to demonstrate that strychnia and wourali (arrow-poison) reciprocally neutralise one another's toxic effects; corresponding member of numerous foreign scientific societies; invented a microscope which could be transformed from a monocular into a binocular or into a polarising instrument, of high or low power; tried to reform English orthography, and advocated the omission of redundant duplicated consonants from all words except personal names; died, 1896. See 'George Harley, FRS: the Life of a London Physician', ed Mrs Alec Tweedie (his daughter) (The Scientific Press, London, 1899). Publications include: 'Jaundice: its Pathology and Treatment' (London, 1863); 'The Urine and its Derangements' (London, 1872; reprinted in America and translated into French and Italian); 'The Simplification of English Spelling' (London, 1877); 'A treatise on Diseases of the Liver' (London, 1883; reprinted in Canada and America, and translated into German by Dr J Kraus); 'On sounding for gall-stones' (London, 1884); 'Inflammations of the Liver' (London, 1886); many scientific papers in various journals, most importantly on liver diseases. George T Brown's 'Histology' (1868) was based on demonstrations given by Harley at University College London, the second edition edited by Harley himself.

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to University College London Manuscripts Room from the College Collection at University College London in 1987.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Custodial History

Presented to University College London by F W Goodbody.

Related Material

University College London Special Collections holds letters from Harley on University College and Hospital business, 1856-1862 (Ref: COLLEGE CORRESPONDENCE AM 76, 83, 86, 90, 94; COLLEGE CORRESPONDENCE MEDICAL FACULTY 243, 258).

The Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine holds Harley's papers, c1860-1885 (Ref: MSS 2780-81).