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Michael Harrison: clinical neurologist and stroke researcher

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 12 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5502
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. Croydon, UK
  1. limb{at}

Neurologist Michael Harrison is best known for his research into stroke and the neurological complications of HIV/AIDS. He is a former director of the Reta Lila Weston Institute for Neurological Studies at the Middlesex Hospital in London.

Aside from his academic achievements, he was also regarded as “one of the best clinical neurologists of his generation,” says Hadi Manji, who was his houseman at the Middlesex in 1982 and later HIV research registrar.

“Physician neurologist”

Another former colleague, Andrew Lees, professor of neurology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, at Queen Square, London, says: “What is remarkable in looking back over his contributions to neurology is the breadth of his curiosity in an era of increasing specialisation, and his determination to maintain his physician status. He was an inspirational teacher for both medical students and his junior staff.”

Harrison produced numerous “clinically relevant” papers on cerebrovascular disease in the 1970s and was one of the first doctors to investigate the effects of aspirin in reducing transient ischaemic attacks. He was the epitome of the “physician neurologist”—now viewed as something of a rare breed—and conscious of the importance of preserving neurology’s links with general medicine.

He won an open scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford, from where he graduated with …

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