Professor Pauline Harrison
Pauline Harrison was the daughter of Dr John Macqueen Cowan, Assistant Requis Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, and May Cowan, also a graduate in Botany and the only girl in her family to go to University. When Pauline opted for a degree in Chemistry her father considered this an unsuitable subject for a girl, but her mother supported her. Pauline graduated from Somerville College, Oxford with a B.A. in Chemistry in 1948 followed by a DPhil in X-ray crystallography. In Oxford she developed an interest in proteins, although in the late 1940s and early 1950s it was uncertain whether the structural analysis of any molecule with the complexity of a protein would be successful. She spent three years (1952-1955) at King's College, London and there determined the structure of a polypeptide, poly-L-proline, which provided a prototype for the structure of collagen the fibrous protein of connective tissue. Although not herself working on DNA, she was at King's during the turbulent and exciting period when Franklin, Wilkins and Gosling were carrying out intensive X-ray analyses of DNA, but were "beaten to it" by the structural model of DNA proposed by Watson and Crick at Cambridge.
In 1955 Pauline moved to Sheffield where her husband, Royden had obtained a University post and obtained a grant from the MRC to determine the structure of the large iron storage protein, ferritin, with which she had become fascinated whilst in Oxford. It was to become her life long study. Ferritin stores its iron as a mineral inside a protein coat and her structure revealed its beautiful, symmetric shell. Consistent with her interests in promoting interdisciplinary research Pauline's studies on ferritin involved worldwide collaborations with clinicians, physicists and chemists.
Pauline was appointed to a lectureship in the then Department of Biochemistry, The University of Sheffield in 1964 and later to a Personal Chair. She is now an Emeritus Professor. She was awarded an honorary DSc and a CBE in 2001. She was a foundation member of the British Biophysical Society in 1960, its Chairman in 1981, and was made an honorary member in 2000. She helped to found the Inorganic Biochemistry Discussion group, co-instigator of a series of International conferences on proteins of iron metabolism and was one of the first honorary members of the International BioIron Society instituted in 2003. Pauline and Royden had two daughters and three grandchildren, who are a source of great joy in her retirement. She is also Chair of the Sheffield University Fine Arts Society and has developed a keen and active interest in painting.
Harrison Chair in Structural Biology and Biophysics
The Harrison Chair in Structural Biology and Biophysics was founded by Professor Pauline Harrisson.
The current holder is Professor David Rice.