Pioneering IVF practitioner Prof Robert Harrison dies aged 76
Founder of Hari unit carried out first IVF procedure at St James’s Hospital in 1985
Prof Robert Harrison: oversaw births of about 4,000 babies using fertility technology. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The death has occurred of Prof Robert Harrison, who pioneered IVF-assisted birth technology in Ireland.
Prof Harrison, who was 76, died in Dublin on Saturday after an 18-month battle with cancer.
As the head of the human-assisted reproduction Ireland (Hari) unit at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Prof Harrison oversaw the births of about 4,000 babies using the developing technologies of assisted human reproduction.
This included his first IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) procedure in St James’s Hospital in 1985, less than a decade after the birth of the world’s first “test-tube baby”, Louise Brown, in the UK.
Prof Harrison was born in Mansfield in England and grew up in Liverpool, but came to Dublin to study medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. After working in the UK, he returned to Dublin in 1976 and, shortly after, set up Ireland’s first couple-orientated infertility clinics.
In 1989, as a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, he set up the Hari unit, whose pioneering fertility techniques were occasionally the focus of public controversy.
He served on the World Health Organisation taskforce on infertility in the 1980s and was active in international obstetric organisations.
Prof Harrison retired in 2005 and wrote a guide to infertility. He served as chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists but resigned in 2015, shortly before being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
His funeral will take place in Glencullen, Co Dublin, on Wednesday.