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Launcelot Harrison (1880–1928)

The death occurred suddenly at Narooma on Monday night of Professor Launcelot Harrison who had occupied the chair of Zoology at the University of Sydney since 1922. He was a brilliant educationist.

Professor Harrison had been spending a holiday with his wife and on Monday, while out with a fishing party, he was seized with cerebral haemorrhage. He was taken ashore immediately, and he died without regaining consciousness.

Mrs Harrison is widely known under her maiden name, Amy Eleanor Mack, as the author of many charming nature study and children's books.

Professor Launcelot Harrison, B.Sc (Syd.), B.A. (Cambridge), was the eldest son of the late Dr. Thomas Harrison, of Sydney, and was born at Wellington, New South Wales, in 1880. He was educated at the King's School, Parramatta, where for two years he was head of the school and Broughton Scholar. In 1911 Professor Harrison entered upon the science course at Sydney University, and graduated in 1913 Bachelor of Science, with high distinction, first-class honours, University medal in zoology, Professor Haswell's prize in zoology, and honours in botany, after winning the Dun Prize for palaeontology in 1912. In 1913-14 he was junior demonstrator in zoology and botany, and in 1914 he was awarded the John Coutt's scholarship for distinction in science. Later in the same year he won the Exhibition of 1851 Science Research Scholarship, and proceeded to England, where he gained an open graduate exhibition for research at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

In 1916 he won the degree of Bachelor of Arts (Research), Cambridge. All scientists soon became involved in work for the War Office, and for 15 months Professor Harrison was engaged in laboratory work under Profossor Nuttall.

In 1916 he was asked by the War Office to go to Mesopotamia as Advisory Entomologist to the expeditionary force there, with the rank of lieutenant, and the work he accomplished in preventing the communication of insect-carried diseases to the British forces was considered of far-reaching importance. He was promoted from the rank of lieutenant to that of captain on the special list, reserve of officers. While on active service in 1918 Professor Harrison was appointed Lecturer and Demonstrator in Zoology at Sydney University, and he resumed duty in July, 1919. In September, 1920, he was appointed Acting Professor of Zoology, and in that capacity and since, as Professor of Zoology, he became widely known both inside and beyond the University. In 1920 he was also appointed Lecturer in Veterinary Parasitology. Most of Professor Harrison's research has been on external parasites, with a special view to the elucidation of the relations of hosts to their parasites. His publications include "A preliminary account of the structure of the mouth parts of the body-louse," "The Genera and Species of Mallophagu," and a paper "On Some Pauropoda from New South Wales."

The different university institutions have had a warm friend in Professor Harrison. He was president of the Union in 1920-21, and was an office-bearer in the University Science Society and the University Dramatic Society. While at the King's School he distinguished himself in athletics, winning the all schools' mile race. An excellent Rugby footballer, he played for Western Suburbs, and represented the State against Queensland and New Zealand in 1901.

Many tributes to the work and personality of Professor Harrison were paid yesterday by those among whom he worked.

"All sections of the University are greatly mourning the death of Professor Harrison," said the Vice-Chancellor of the University (Professor R. S. Wallace) yesterday. "He was, by common knowledge and consent, one of the most distinguished teachers in the University, and a scholar of the first rank. Starting in business he came to academic life later than usual but he soon made his mark as he had a genuine love of learning. As a research worker he was, in the subject of zoology, in the front rank. He was, besides, an excellent teacher, and, because he interested his students, he was greatly liked by them."

"The war left its mark on many men," continued Professor Wallace, "and there can be no doubt that Professor Harrison's death was due to war service. He has been a sick man for some years, and yet, in spite of sickness he refused to give in. He has left a memorial in the Department of Zoology which owes much to his learning, energy, and enthusiasm."

Professor J. P. Peden, chairman of the Professorial Board, said: "The very sad news will be received with deep and sincere regret not only by those who were directly associated with Professor Harrison, but by all members of the University. I know that every member of the Professorial Board would wish me to offer on its behalf, as well as for myself, a warm tribute of personal esteem and liking and a heartfelt expression of sorrow."

An official message from the trustees of the Australian Museum expressed their sorrow at the news, and added: "The late Professor Harrison was elected a trustee of the Australian Museum in April 1924, and at the time of his death was chairman of the scientific and publication committee. He at all times took a very active interest in the affairs of the institution."

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'Harrison, Launcelot (1880–1928)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 June 2024.

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