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Henry Nelson Harkins Papers 1912-1971
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Biography

Biographical Note

Henry Nelson Harkins (1905-1967) was born in Missoula, MT, and was the son of another well-known chemist, William Draper Harkins who chaired the University of Montana's chemistry department. Henry Harkins was raised in Chicago, IL. He attended the University of Chicago, ultimately graduating in 1926 with a Ph.D. in chemistry. He then obtained his medical degree in 1930 from Rush University. During medical school, he was awarded the Douglas Smith Fellow in Medicine where he studied physiological chemistry under Albert B. Hastings. Another postdoctoral research program under Dallas Phemister captivated his interest in surgery as well, and throughout his career he promoted and developed his interests in chemistry, surgery and teaching.

He served as Instructor in Surgery at Wayne State University and Associate Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University before coming to the University of Washington in 1947 as Professor of Surgery and the first Chairman if the Department. He was also the first chairman appointed to a clinical department in the new Medical School. He created one of the first surgical residency programs, recognized throughout the world for its excellence. He exerted an important influence in many of the Department's subsequent appointments and helped guide the initial development of the School of Medicine. He retired in 1964 in order to return to his research interests. He spent the year 1965-1966 as a Guggenheim Fellow, traveling throughout world, but in Scandinavia and Europe particularly, studying gastrointestinal surgical techniques.

Hasting's major areas of research included shock and burns, gastrointestinal surgery and physiology of gastric secretions. His interest on shock and burns was largely a outcome of World War II experiences, the result of which was his classic book The Treatment of Burns (1942). Hasting turned his focus to gastric physiology and surgery, particularly surgical treatments of the duodenum and for ulcers. Dr. Harkins also served as a consultant and advisor to the Public Health Service throughout his career and also served on the National Library of Medicine's Board of Regents (1962-1966).

Harkins was a well-liked lecturer and held several visiting professorships, partially in conjunction with his Guggenheim Fellowship, in places such as Australia, Kuala Lumpur, South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand, and Sweden. While there the Swedish Surgical Society honored him as the Acrel Medalist. He served on several editorial boards and was an active member in many professional societies. He was also the author of over 340 articles, 9 books, and contributed chapters to many others. Dr. Harkins represented the classic academic surgeon, being at once a teacher, an investigator, a student, a scholar, and an important contributor to worldwide medicine. The Henry N. Harkins Surgical Society is named for him.