Harrison, Robert (1793–1858), surgeon and anatomist, was born in Co. Tipperary, son of John Harrison; nothing is known of his mother. He entered TCD in October 1809, aged 16; his father was dead by this time. After his initial medical studies he was apprenticed to Abraham Colles (qv) in August 1810 and began surgical studies at the RCSI. He graduated BA (TCD) in 1814 and then travelled to London, where he worked as the clinical clerk of a Dr Travers in St Thomas's Hospital. In 1815 he became a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, becoming a licentiate of the RCSI in 1816. He was appointed as a demonstrator in anatomy at the medical school at TCD (the old School of Physick) in 1817 and was elected a member of the RCSI in 1818, graduating MA and MB from TCD in 1824. In August 1827 he was appointed professor of anatomy and physiology at the RCSI (1827–37).
In 1837 he graduated MD from TCD and was elected professor of anatomy and surgery at the college, an appointment he held until his death. A brilliant lecturer and anatomist, he published important medical texts, including Surgical anatomy of the arteries (2 vols, Dublin, 1824), which ran to several editions. His two-volume Dublin dissector (1827), initially published using the pseudonym ‘MRCSI’, had run to a fifth edition by 1835, remained the main anatomical text in the Dublin medical schools for over sixty years, and was also a popular text in medical schools in America. In 1829 he published a translation of Weitbrecht's Syndesmologia.
During the 1820s and 1830s he occasionally featured in the medical satires of Dr Peter Hennis Green, who wrote for the Lancet using the pseudonym ‘Erinensis’. Hennis Green disliked Harrison's lecturing style intensely and christened him ‘the Grinder’. In October 1827 he devoted a whole column to Harrison, lampooning him in a merciless satire.
In 1842 Harrison recommended the separation of the chairs of anatomy and surgery at TCD, which was carried out under the terms of the new medical curriculum of 1849. A prominent member of the Surgical Society of Ireland (founded in 1831), he frequently criticised members of the profession who did not join. A member of the RDS, he served as the society's honorary secretary, 1849–58. He was elected president of the RCSI in 1848 and 1849 and was appointed surgeon at Dr Steevens' Hospital (1856). In 1857 he was elected professor of zoology at TCD. Seemingly in the best of health, he lectured and worked as normal on 22 April 1858 but suffered an apoplectic seizure during that night. He died at his Dublin residence, 1 Hume St., on 23 April 1858 and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery.
He married (date unknown) Anne, daughter of the Rev. Jonathan Cope, rector of Ahascragh, Co. Galway. They had one son.