Dr Richard Penn Harbord

Personal Details

Dr Richard Penn Harbord MD FFARCS DA

30/11/1911 to 06/01/2005

Place of birth: Hull, England

Nationality: British

Post nominals:

CRN: 529589

Also known as: Jock

Education and qualifications

General education

Liverpool College where he was a house prefect, a successful runner and a L/Cpl in the OTC; Liverpool University Medical School

Primary medical qualification(s)

MBChB, Liverpool, 1936

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

MD, Liverpool, 1939 (Thesis: A study of the variations in blood pressure and pulse rate associated with anaesthesia and surgery); DA(RCP&S), 1939

Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

After graduating Harbord was house surgeon at Stanley Hospital, Liverpool with the administration of anaesthetics being among his duties. By 1939 he had completed his MD thesis, was visiting anaesthetist at Smithdown Road City Hospital, part-time demonstrator in the Liverpool Department of Anaesthetics, and Liverpool’s first full-time anaesthetist. In 1942 he joined the RAMC, and after a short spell in Bangor, Northern Ireland, went to Oxford where he joined No 4 Mobile NeuroSurgical Unit which travelled to Durban by sea and then flew to Cairo. After El Alamein the unit was attached to the Eighth Army at Benghazi, then with the New Zealand & Highland Divisions to Tunis, finally crossing to Sicily to establish the 11th General Hospital. After contracting infective hepatitis Harbord served with an MRC Trauma Shock Research Unit in Casino, Italy. He worked with John Goligher, later professor of surgery in Leeds, a connection which perhaps influenced his 1947 appointment as Reader and head of the department of anaesthetics there. He has left his own detailed account (see reference below) of his UK career , but emigrated to the USA in 1962, working sequentially in Boston Massachusetts, Lexington Kentucky (as Medical Director of Respiratory Therapy), and Chicago Illinois, latterly in private not hospital practice. He retired from anaesthetic work in 1976, aged 65, but continued to work in general medical practice until he was 77.

Professional interests and activities

During his time in Leeds Harbord made significant contributions to academic anaesthesia, publishing widely on a range of subjects, and being one of the three founders of the Anaesthetic Research Group (now Society). He also served on the Boards of both the Faculty of Anaesthetists and the British Journal of Anaesthesia, editing the latter’s early educational issues. As head of one of the few established academic departments he was a significant figure in the UK, but his academic activity seems to have fallen, certainly as judged by published output, after he emigrated.

Other biographical information

He married Mary Isabel (Mollie) Johnston in 1937, and they had three children: Christopher, Jonathan and Heather, all of whom seem to have settled in North America. He and his wife divorced in 1959 and his later companion was Marcella Katterheinrich. Nothing is known of his non-medical interests, but he was described as a decent, helpful, kind and pleasant person, with one surgical colleague noting him as “something of a character”.

Author and sources

Author: Prof Tony Wildsmith

Sources and any other comments: Ellis FR. Obituary. www.rcoa.ac.uk/obituaries/dr-richard-penn-jock-harbord | Ancestry.co.uk | Liverpool College records | Harbord R P. Personal View 1: Not the English Patient. Royal College of Anaesthetists Newsletter 1998 (May); 40: 15-17 (Click here for link to article)