Papers of Rodney Harris

Scope and Content

Papers of Professor Rodney Harris, medical geneticist. The papers document Professor Harris' academic and professional interests in genetics from the 1950s to the 1990s, and are an important source for the history of medical genetics research, particularly in the North West of England. They also provide invaluable information on the research activities of the University of Manchester Medical School in the latter part of the twentieth century.

Section A, Manchester, consists of correspondence and papers covering various developments and initiatives in genetics involving Harris and his department at the University of Manchester. These activities were principally within the Manchester and N North West region but were often part of projects involving other centres. The material spans the period 1968 to 1995, the bulk of it dating to the 1970s and 1980s. Topics include: tissue typing and the development of renal transplantation, 1968-1972; the work of the Genetic Register Advisory Group (chaired by Harris), 1979-1989; the development of regional genetics services, 1973-1990; vitamin and neural tube defect studies, 1975-1985; and Special Medical Developments (‘SMDs’), 1983-1995. The SMD material is the largest group of papers in this section and relates to the University of Manchester’s collaboration with centres in Cardiff and London in the application of recombinant DNA technology. There are also some papers documenting meetings of the Study Group in Human Genetics at Manchester, 1958-1975, which was set up by Sir Robert Platt (professor of medicine) in 1958.

Section B, Committees and organisations, comprises papers concerning Harris’s wider professional commitments. Clinical Genetics Society material, 1969-1983, covers the founding and general business of the Society, its report to the Royal Commission on the National Health Service (1976-1977), and the Working Party on the Role and Training of Clinical Geneticists (1981-1983) which Harris chaired. There are papers documenting the activities of the Joint Committee for Higher Medical Training, 1979-1986, and its Specialist Advisory Committee on Paediatrics. Harris’s involvement in the Royal College of Physicians is also represented. This material, all from the 1980s, covers training for geneticists and cytogeneticists, the College’s assistance to the DHSS’s Joint Planning Committee, and the joint statement to the DHSS by the four medical Royal Colleges on the planning and organisation of genetic services.

Section C, Conferences and visits, reflects Harris’s international standing in human genetics and covers the period 1968-1975. Most of the papers relate to conferences, symposia and meetings abroad. Among those documented are the following: Third Symposium of the European Society of Human Genetics, Liverpool 1969; Fourth International Histocompatibility Conference, Copenhagen 1970; Fourth International Congress of Human Genetics, Paris 1971; lecture tour of South Africa, 1975; and the Fourteenth Congress of the International Society of Blood Transfusion, Helsinki 1975.

Administrative / Biographical History

Rodney Harris was born in Liverpool in 1932. As an undergraduate at the University of Liverpool, he started in the School of Dentistry before changing to Medicine. After graduating Harris took various posts in Liverpool hospitals, concluding with a period at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary as Registrar, Senior Registrar and lecturer. While there he began genetics work under C.A. Clarke and, before leaving, he obtained a Darwin Research Fellowship from the Eugenics Society to undertake research in South West Africa.

In 1968 he took up a Readership at the University of Manchester and remained there for the rest of his career, rising to be Professor of Medical Genetics in 1980 (subsequently Emeritus). From 1982 to 1989 he was Consultant Advisor in Medical Genetics to the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, helping to persuade government ministers and officials of the importance of medical genetics in health. Other offices he held include President of the UK Clinical Genetics Society; Chairman of the UK National Confidential Inquiry into Genetic Counselling 1986-1990; Chairman of the Royal College of Physicians of London Committee on Clinical Genetics, with responsibilities for organising the national training of specialists in clinical genetics; Chairman of the ESHG Committee on Genetic Services; and Chairman of the EU Concerted Action on Genetic Services in Europe. Professor Harris retired from the University in 1997. He died in December 2017.


The papers are arranged in the following sections:

Section A: Manchester,

Section B: Committees and organisations,

Section C: Conferences and visits.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Archivist's Note

The work in compiling this catalogue was made possible through a grant from the Wellcome Trust Research Resources in Medical History Programme. The project was hosted by Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives and headed by Mr Peter Keelan. The collection was originally catalogued by Simon Coleman, project archivist, in 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

Harris's archive was given to St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, on his retirement and was received by the NCUACS at the University of Bath in July 2008. Following the establishment of the Wellcome Genetics Archives Project at Cardiff University in 2010, Harris's archive was sent there to be included in year 2 of the Project. On the request of the University of Manchester, the archive was divided into two: Harris's personal papers (ROH) and the Department of Medical Genetics papers, Series 1 (DMG/1). On completion of cataloguing of the papers by the Wellcome Project, it was transferred to the John Rylands University Library in October 2011.


None expected.

Related Material

JRUL also has custody of the University's department of medical genetics archive (DMG); this archive was originally associated with Harris' papers.

The papers of Harris' predecessor at Manchester, Alan Emery, are in the custody of the Wellcome Library, London (PP/AEE).