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Harry Lee Parker

Games Lost and Won on the Playing Fields of Neurology
Open AccessPublished:July 15, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2021.05.008
      Harry Lee Parker (1894–1959) was an American and Irish neurologist who reported unique paroxysmal symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis,
      • Klaas J.P.
      • Burkholder D.B.
      • Singer W.
      • Boes C.J.
      Harry Lee Parker and paroxysmal dysarthria and ataxia.
      and wrote a book on clinical neurology popular enough to be reprinted 13 years after initial publication.
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      Parker penned profiles of other physicians,
      • Parker H.L.
      Jacksonian convulsions: an historical note.
      • Parker H.L.
      Charles Horace Mayo: an appreciation.
      • Parker H.L.
      Personality and achievement.
      but his biography has only been touched on briefly in obituaries,
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      ,
      • Doyle J.B.
      Harry Lee Parker MD: 1894–1959.
      articles,
      • Klaas J.P.
      • Burkholder D.B.
      • Singer W.
      • Boes C.J.
      Harry Lee Parker and paroxysmal dysarthria and ataxia.
      ,
      • Burkholder D.B.
      • Koehler P.J.
      • Boes C.J.
      Trigeminal neuralgia and multiple sclerosis: a historical perspective.
      ,
      • Boes C.J.
      • Burkholder D.B.
      • Coon E.A.
      • Cutsforth-Gregory J.K.
      • Klaas J.P.
      • Jones Jr., L.K.
      Reciprocal development and progressive responsibility: the history of the Mayo Clinic Neurology residency.
      and books.
      • Mulder D.W.
      Neurology at Mayo: The Formative Years. Available at Mayo Clinic Libraries.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      • O’Brien E.
      • Browne L.
      • O’Malley K.
      The House of Industry Hospitals, 1772-1987: The Richmond, Whitworth, and Hardwicke (St Laurence’s Hospital): A Closing Memoir.
      • Woolling K.R.
      Recollections of a Mayo Clinic Fellowship at Midtwentieth Century. 1948–1952. Indianapolis.
      Following his advice that “a honeyed obituary is an insult to the dead (p. 596),”
      • Parker H.L.
      Personality and achievement.
      we will describe in detail the life of Dr. Harry Lee Parker, using primary sources from the W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine at Mayo Clinic, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Archive, the Trinity College Dublin Manuscripts & Archives Research Library, other archives, and interviews of family members. This paper will explore his early years and medical training; define the influence of several major world events of the first half of the 20th century on Parker; explain why he moved from Ireland to America twice; identify his national and international neurologic influence; describe the background of his book Clinical Studies in Neurology; and illustrate his personality. It will also give insight into how Mayo Clinic attracted medical school graduates and faculty members from outside America and highlight the close professional and personal relationships that William J. and Charles H. Mayo (who, along with their father, founded Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN) engendered with their faculty members. As Parker recommended when doing biography, we will focus on “his thought, his deed, the star he followed, the issues he achieved (p. 12),”

      Parker HL. The glory of the Dublin School of Medicine. Undated. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      so as to “give you your man, a living presence with a voice, a heart that beats and a hand that labours (p. 12).”

      Parker HL. The glory of the Dublin School of Medicine. Undated. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Formative Years

      Harry Lee Parker (Figure 1) was born in Limerick, Ireland, on February 20, 1894, to Eleanor Margaret Parker, née Lee, and John Henry Parker. In the 1901 Irish census, John listed his occupation as registered druggist, and Harry and his older brother Ivan George were noted to be scholars.
      The National Archives of Ireland
      Census of Ireland 1901/1911 website.
      The Parkers were members of the Church of Ireland.
      The National Archives of Ireland
      Census of Ireland 1901/1911 website.
      Harry described his religious upbringing:“When I was very young my mother made me read the Holy Bible as something incontrovertible. Speedily, I found inconsistencies and verses that could be played one against the other. Again and again I importuned her for explanation. Finally in her quandary and anger she told me ‘The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.’ After this was flung at me I felt in a sense an Avocatus Diabolicus [devil’s advocate] and asked no more questions letting the thing settle itself (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. An argument. Undated. MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Harry Lee Parker in 1900, age 6. By permission of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.
      Courtesy of the W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
      When Harry was approximately 7 years old, his father was ruined by the misconduct of a business partner, and the family sought refuge in South Africa.

      Myles T. Letter to William J. Mayo, September 18, 1919. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He was educated at the Marist Brothers’ School in Johannesburg.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Harry was a member of a scouting organization, a forerunner of Robert Baden-Powell’s Boy Scouts,
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      and worked as a telegrapher at a post office.
      ,
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      He enjoyed swimming, pugilism, fishing, and hunting, and was an excellent long-range rifle shooter.
      • Woolling K.R.
      Recollections of a Mayo Clinic Fellowship at Midtwentieth Century. 1948–1952. Indianapolis.
      ,
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      As a teen, in approximately 1911, Harry took his savings and headed alone to Dublin, Ireland.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      His father died of tuberculosis in South Africa on July 30, 1914,
      • Parker J.H.
      while his mother became a nurse.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Once in Dublin, Parker worked to get into Trinity College Dublin (TCD), the sole college of the University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland. He spent 2 years at Mountjoy School

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      and was also privately tutored.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Harry was admitted to TCD in January 1913 after passing the entrance exam.

      Trinity College Dublin Main Admissions Register. TCD/MUN/V/23/8 folio 21v and 22r. Trinity College Dublin Manuscripts & Archives Research Library. Dublin, Ireland.

      He was a pensioner, which meant he paid a fixed annual fee, and his tutor was Mr Fraser (likely John Fraser, MA, Fellow of TCD).

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Trinity College Dublin Main Admissions Register. TCD/MUN/V/23/8 folio 21v and 22r. Trinity College Dublin Manuscripts & Archives Research Library. Dublin, Ireland.

      Author unknown
      Harry entered the School of Medicine in April 1913 at the age of 19 years (Figure 2).

      Trinity College Dublin Admissions Register to the School of Medicine. TCD MUN/MED/4A/1, p. 203. Trinity College Dublin Manuscripts & Archives Research Library. Dublin, Ireland.

      Figure thumbnail gr2
      Figure 2Harry Lee Parker studying at Trinity College Dublin in approximately 1916.
      Trinity College Dublin was founded by Queen Elizabeth in 1592 and was considered a Unionist institution. This was clearly evident during the 1916 Easter Rising, when Irish republicans rebelled against their British rulers, as members of the TCD Officers’ Training Corps defended the institution against their own Irish countrymen.
      • Coakley D.
      Medicine in Trinity College Dublin: An Illustrated History.
      Harry was a cadet in the TCD Officers’ Training Corps, which had been formed to standardize military training for medical students interested in becoming officers in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC; the medical wing of the British Army).
      • McCracken T.
      The Royal Army Medical Corps in the Great War: Rare Photographs from the Wartime Archives. Barnsley.
      Parker defended Trinity from a college building across the street from the General Post Office, very near Horatio Nelson’s Pillar (which had a statue of the one-armed British war hero at the top).
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Perhaps reflecting Parker’s mixed loyalties, family lore is that he shot off Nelson’s other arm, although photographs after the dust settled showed the arm still to be attached.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Parker received a replica silver cup (of two larger silver cups presented to the TCD Officers’ Training Corps from the citizens of Dublin)
      • Irish Times
      Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook, Easter, 1916: A Complete and Connected Narrative of the Rising, with Detailed Accounts of the Fighting at all Points.
      for his actions during the Easter Rising (Figure 3). Harry’s name was not listed as a silver cup recipient in two incomplete sources,
      • Irish Times
      Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook, Easter, 1916: A Complete and Connected Narrative of the Rising, with Detailed Accounts of the Fighting at all Points.
      ,
      Author unknown
      Sinn Fein Rebellion, 1916. A Souvenir of Presentations to the Officers' Training Corps, Trinity College Dublin.
      but the name HH Parker appeared as a penciled annotation on a “List of Members of the Dublin University Officers Training Corps To Whom Replicas Are To Be Given.”

      Author unknown. List of Members of the Dublin University Officers Training Corps To Whom Replicas Are To Be Given. TCD MS 2783, folios 28 and 87. Trinity College Dublin Manuscripts & Archives Research Library. Dublin, Ireland.

      Most likely this should have been HL Parker, as the name HH Parker does not appear on TCD admissions registers from 1905 to 1919 (Aisling Lockhart, written personal communication, December 10, 2020).
      Figure thumbnail gr3
      Figure 3Engraved replica silver cup given to Harry Lee Parker for defending Trinity College Dublin (TCD). On one side (A) “Defense of T.C.D.—Sinn Fein Rebellion—Easter 1916” was inscribed. On the other (B) “Cadet H.L. Parker” was inscribed.
      Parker received a Bachelor of Arts degree from TCD in 1916. He acted as a demonstrator of anatomy from October 1916 to March 1917, and also served as a demonstrator of botany for TCD Professor Henry H. Dixon, later becoming Dixon’s assistant.

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Harry made enough money that his family did not need to give him financial support during his TCD days.

      Myles T. Letter to William J. Mayo, September 18, 1919. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      In 1918, Parker earned the triple degrees of Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, and Bachelor in Arts of Obstetrics (MB, BCh, BAO).

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Harry won several awards during his schooling (Table 1), and his fees were forgiven when he received his BCh degree because of his examination success.

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      In 1918, he also obtained a Licentiate in Medicine (LM) from the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, where he did his obstetrics training.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Table 1Awards Received by Harry Lee Parker From Trinity College Dublin

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      ,
      Author unknown
      The Dublin University Calendar for the Year 1921–22.
      DateAward
      1914Medical Scholarship in Physics, Chemistry, Botany, and Zoology

      Awarded annually to the student with the highest marks in these subjects
      1915John Mallet Purser Medal

      Awarded annually to the student with the highest marks in physiology and histology
      1915Daniel John Cunningham Medal in Anatomy

      Awarded annually to the student with the highest marks in anatomy
      1916Professor’s Prize in Anatomy

      Awarded annually to the student with meritorious anatomy examination performance
      1918Thomas FitzPatrick Scholarship

      Awarded annually to the student who obtained the highest aggregate marks on the intermediate and final medical examinations
      There was great pressure from the medical establishment to join the war effort during Parker’s training. Frederick Conway Dwyer, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, stated in March 1915 that “Graduates should enter as speedily as possible the Royal Army Medical Corps to place their professional skill and knowledge at the disposal of their King and country (p. 52).”
      • Durnin D.
      The Irish Medical Profession and the First World War.
      There was also significant social pressure to enlist. Women in the Order of the White Feather gave white feathers to young men who looked healthy enough to enlist but were not in uniform.
      White feather diaries website.
      Harry studied continuously and limited going out in public to avoid being given a white feather.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Additionally, there were economic motivations to enlist, as a doctor in the RAMC received £400/year plus a uniform allowance.
      • Durnin D.
      The Irish Medical Profession and the First World War.
      Many felt morally compelled to enlist so as to ease suffering humanity, which was a professional responsibility.
      • Durnin D.
      The Irish Medical Profession and the First World War.
      Parker joined the RAMC in May 1918 (Figure 4) as a lieutenant, promising to serve 1 year.

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He was not alone in doing so, as TCD contributed more doctors to the war effort than the other major Irish medical schools.
      • Durnin D.
      The Irish Medical Profession and the First World War.
      Harry was attached to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in France

      Myles T. Letter to William J. Mayo, September 18, 1919. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      and saw 6 months of fighting before Armistice was declared November 11, 1918. Parker described his war experience:“[Dr. Aloysius John Maguire and I] were both medical officers in His Britannic Majesty’s Army at the time the enemy attacked in the spring of 1918. My friend had many wounded to care for, while luckily for me, all of mine had been evacuated. I ran so fast that I escaped capture, but my colleague was made a prisoner of war (p. 287).”
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      Figure thumbnail gr4
      Figure 4Harry Lee Parker in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1918. By permission of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.
      Courtesy of the W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
      He operated anywhere, anytime, with a bottle of chloroform on one hip and a bottle of ether on the other.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      During one surgery in front of a fire, he dropped one of the bottles, fortunately chloroform, as ether is flammable.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Harry became ill with influenza in 1919, and woke up in a London hospital with two medals (Victory and British) and his discharge papers next to him.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      ,

      British Army medal index cards 1914–1920. The National Archives' catalogue. WO 372/15 - Nolan P - Pickering SM/114650. Parker, Harry Lee. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond.

      His dates of military service were May 1918 to May 1919.

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      By June 1919, Parker was back in Ireland, working as a temporary medical officer at the dispensary in Clifden, County Galway.

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Harry cared for the sick in the dispensary, which was part of the Irish poor law system (Clifden Poor Law Union), until early August 1919.

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He wanted to continue his medical training, but his options were limited in Ireland. Irish universities routinely produced more medical graduates than could be employed in Ireland, and most went to Britain or its Empire.
      • O’Connor S.
      Imperial continuities: Irish doctors and the British armed forces, 1922–45.
      This state of overcrowding reached new heights following demobilization.
      • Durnin D.
      The Irish Medical Profession and the First World War.
      In addition, World War I intensified nationalist feelings in Ireland, and some returning soldiers were abused and threatened due to their association with the British Army.
      • Durnin D.
      Ireland’s British Army doctors and the treatment of Irish nationalists, 1916–23.
      Finally, the Irish War of Independence from January 1919 to July 1921 made Ireland a violent place.
      • Durnin D.
      Ireland’s British Army doctors and the treatment of Irish nationalists, 1916–23.
      Although speculative, these factors may have swayed Parker’s decision to leave Ireland.

      To Rochester

      Parker’s cousin, Sir Thomas Myles, was influential in steering him to America. Myles was an accomplished Irish surgeon who had a complicated relationship with Britain. He was knighted in 1902, and in 1910 was appointed honorary surgeon in Ireland to King George V.
      • Balfour D.C.
      Sir Thomas Myles 1857–1937.
      Conversely, in 1914 he used his yacht to transport guns and ammunition from Wales to Irish nationalists.
      • Durnin D.
      Ireland’s British Army doctors and the treatment of Irish nationalists, 1916–23.
      From 1914 to 1918 he served as a temporary lieutenant colonel in the RAMC, and consulting surgeon to the RAMC in Ireland.
      • Durnin D.
      Ireland’s British Army doctors and the treatment of Irish nationalists, 1916–23.
      As part of an Allied surgeons’ tour, Myles and several other important European surgeons visited Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, on October 30, 1918.

      St Marys Hospital physician register. SMA-0100. Saint Marys Hospital Administration Records. SG02. Vol 4. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      ,
      Author uknown
      Allied surgeons tour America.
      Myles met with William J. “Will” Mayo, and discussed Parker’s talent.

      Parker HL. Letter to William J. Mayo, October 1, 1919. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Mayo gave instructions for Harry to come to Rochester once he was released from the Army.

      Parker HL. Letter to William J. Mayo, October 1, 1919. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker departed on the SS Columbia from Londonderry (also known as Derry) on September 22, 1919.
      Ancestry.com
      New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc..
      He arrived in Rochester on October 1, 1919, and wrote to Will Mayo:“My cousin Sir Thomas Myles, surgeon, on his return from this country told me that he had spoken to you about me. He advised me to come here as soon as I was released from the army and could get a boat. I have done so. I arrived in this town this morning. I have a letter of introduction from Sir Thomas Myles … Could you spare a little of your valuable time and grant me an interview at whatever time and place as may suit you best (pp. 1-2).”

      Parker HL. Letter to William J. Mayo, October 1, 1919. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      In the introductory letter, Myles summarized Parker:“Though he is rather a shy sort of youngster he is full of brains and has had a most brilliant university career in Trinity College, having got 1st place in every subject and got every prize that was open to competition in the Medical School. He gave me the impression of being essentially a School man rather than the markings of a practitioner, as he had a gift for teaching and possesses considerable powers of exposition (p. 1).”

      Myles T. Letter to William J. Mayo, September 18, 1919. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker met with Louis B. Wilson (physician head of the Mayo Clinic residency training programs) and Will Mayo in late October 1919. Wilson recorded that “Dr. Mayo requests that P. be taken on fellowship—service to begin Nov. 1 and given whatever work is available (p. 1).”

      Wilson LB. Notation on interview of Dr. H.L. Parker, October 30, 1919. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Family lore is that at the end of this meeting Harry had to ask the stern Will Mayo for a cash advance, as he was out of money.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Harry started his Mayo Clinic residency training on November 1, 1919 (Table 2). He was initially registered in the surgery program, perhaps influenced by his war experiences, but quickly changed his specialty to medicine.

      MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Will Mayo wrote to Thomas Myles in 1921 about Parker’s performance during residency:“You will be pleased to know, I am sure, of the high standing which your [cousin], Dr. Parker, has gained in the Clinic … When Dr. Parker came he was received most kindly because of his birth and training and our deep-seated affection for [you], but today he stands on his own feet, admired and respected as one of the best of the younger men in the Clinic (p. 1).”

      Mayo WJ. Letter to Thomas Myles, April 14, 1921. MHU-0620. William James Mayo Papers. Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland correspondence 1921 to 1923. Box 43. Subgroup 2. Series 1. Subseries 53. Folder 1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Table 2Harry Lee Parker’s Residency Rotations at Mayo Clinic

      MHU-0142. Department of Facilities and Support Services. Records. Subgroup SG09: Quarterly Directory. 1919-current (Quarterly Bulletin). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Quarter/dateRotation
      November 1, 1919 to end of 1919General pathology (Dr Louis Wilson)
      1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarters of 1920Neurology (Dr Walter Shelden)
      4th quarter of 1920Medicine (Dr Arch Logan)
      1st quarter of 1921Medicine (Dr Arch Logan, proctoscopic rotation)
      2nd quarter of 1921 to 4th quarter of 1924Neurology

      Appointed first assistant in April 1921 (through end of residency)

      Transferred major to neurology on July 1, 1921
      January 1, 1925Named neurology consultant
      Harry transferred his major to neurology on July 1, 1921. The other Mayo brother, Charles H. “Charlie” Mayo, noted in an April 1925 letter to Myles that “I am sure you will be glad to know that Doctor Parker has made good and is now a member of the permanent staff in Doctor Shelden’s [Neurology] Section (p. 1).”

      Mayo CH. Letter to Thomas Myles, April 9, 1925. MHU-0618. Charles Horace Mayo Papers. Box 49. Subgroup 3. Series 1. Subseries 1. Folder 10. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker quickly established himself as a neurologic force of nature at Mayo Clinic. By 1927, Will Mayo would report to Thomas Myles that his cousin was “doing splendid work and making a fine reputation (p. 1).”

      Mayo WJ. Letter to Thomas Myles, January 7, 1927. MHU-0620. William James Mayo Papers. Box 103. Subgroup 2. Series 6. Subseries 1. Folder 21. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Harry’s neurology colleague Fred Moersch noted:“Dr. Parker was a powerful man, both physically and mentally … We frequently referred to him as the ‘wild Irishman.’ Harry was well-read, and gifted in the use of the written word. He was an untiring worker … In the course of a day’s work he was able to consult on more patients than any of us. He loved to teach the fellowship men and had the gift of impressing his listeners with an appropriate anecdote … Harry’s somewhat dramatic presentations had the effect of leaving a lasting impression on his audience (pp. 14-16).”

      Moersch FP. Evolution of the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry of the Mayo Clinic 1926-1956. Part II. 1967. MHU 0670. Memoirs and Department Histories Collection. Folder 177. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker summarized his experience teaching Mayo Clinic residents:“For 15 years, I had taught postgraduate students at the Mayo Clinic. It was a labor of love since these young men are carefully selected as being of high intelligence and of a previous faultless career. They absorbed information with an unparalleled gusto, and could ask and answer questions in neurology that were controversial topics. They could go further and discuss modernities of which I was ignorant (p. vii).”
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      Louis B. Wilson, head of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, stated in 1933 that Parker was an outstanding neurologist.

      Wilson LB. Comments on staff and fellows, March 8–13, 1933. MHU 0602. Helen Clapesattle Papers. Box 10. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      In comparison, Wilson stated that Parker’s mentors at Mayo Clinic, Henry Woltman and Fred Moersch, were competent neurologists.

      Wilson LB. Comments on staff and fellows, March 8–13, 1933. MHU 0602. Helen Clapesattle Papers. Box 10. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Luman Daniels (trained by Parker at Mayo Clinic) clarified that Parker was not infallible, and also had a dark sense of humor at times:“My first year in Denver (~1933), I failed to recognize a case of tabes, probably because the patient was a doctor's wife. Harry Lee did not miss it. Later that year, Harry referred a … woman to me for followup. He and [Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon Alfred Adson] thought she had a spinal cord tumor. Through dumb luck, I happened to read a paper on parasagittal meningioma and was able to recognize the condition in the case Harry referred. She did not survive surgery in Rochester. Harry's report of the outcome ended with the sentence, ‘now we're even (p. 2).’”

      Daniels LE. Letter to Joe Brown, December 4, 1967. MHU-9991. Miscellaneous Committees Collection. Box B015 NW. Mulder book, original sources-histories-Doyle, Rucker, Daniels, Rooke folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker was academically productive during his initial years at Mayo Clinic. He received a Master of Science Degree in neurology in June 1923 for a thesis on tumors involving the fourth ventricle of the brain.
      • Parker H.L.
      Tumors involving the fourth ventricle of the brain: a study of their clinical and pathologic characters.
      ,
      • Parker H.L.
      Tumors Involving the Fourth Ventricle of the Brain: A Study of their Clinical and Pathologic Characters [master's thesis].
      Harry published important papers on post-encephalitic disturbances of respiratory rhythm in children (1922), multiple sclerosis-associated trigeminal neuralgia (1928), paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration in a patient with ovarian cancer (1933), and traumatic encephalopathy of professional pugilists (1934).
      • Burkholder D.B.
      • Koehler P.J.
      • Boes C.J.
      Trigeminal neuralgia and multiple sclerosis: a historical perspective.
      ,
      • Parker H.L.
      Disturbances of the respiratory rhythm in children: a sequela to epidemic encephalitis.
      • Parker H.L.
      Trigeminal neuralgic pain associated with multiple sclerosis.
      • Parker H.L.
      • Kernohan J.W.
      Parenchymatous cortical cerebellar atrophy (chronic atrophy of Purkinje's cells).
      • Parker H.L.
      Traumatic encephalopathy ('punch drunk') of professional pugilists.
      American neurologist Maurice Victor stated that Parker’s 1933 report on cerebellar degeneration was the third pathologically verified patient with carcinomatous (paraneoplastic in today’s nomenclature) cerebellar degeneration.
      • Victor M.
      • Ferrendelli J.A.
      The nutritional and metabolic diseases of the cerebellum. Clinical and pathlogical aspects.
      Partly based on his research productivity, Harry was elected to active membership in the exclusive American Neurological Association in 1931.
      • Riley H.A.
      Minutes of the first executive session of the fifty-seventh annual meeting of the American Neurological Association, May 27, 1931. American Neurological Association Archives website.
      He was also charter member (1922) of the Central Neuropsychiatric Association.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      By 1934, he was an associate professor of neurology.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker was cited 18 times in famed British neurologist Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson’s well-referenced, 1940 textbook Neurology, which was evidence of the quality of his clinical research.
      • Wilson S.A.K.
      • Bruce A.N.
      Neurology.
      On the personal front during these early years in Rochester, Parker met Florence May Lampert while she was recovering from goiter surgery at the home of Charlie Mayo.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Family lore is that she and Harry were set up by Charlie.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      They married on August 4, 1923, at Grace Episcopal Church in Madison, WI, and had two children, Sheila Margaret Parker and Thomas Myles Parker.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Harry became a US citizen in 1927,
      • Parker F.
      Unedited preliminary biography of Harry Lee Parker, prepared for The National Cyclopaedia of National Biography
      MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
      a process he had started when first moving to Rochester in 1919.

      Parker HL. The University of Minnesota Graduate School application. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He was politically independent.
      • Parker F.
      Unedited preliminary biography of Harry Lee Parker, prepared for The National Cyclopaedia of National Biography
      MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

      Back to Ireland

      The main impetus for Parker’s return to Ireland was the sudden death of Frank Purser on February 28, 1934.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      Purser had been the neurologist at the Richmond Hospital in Dublin, and Honorary Professor of Neurology at TCD.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      Pioneering Irish neurosurgeon Adams McConnell of the Richmond Hospital invited Parker to replace Purser via a telegram that read, in its entirety, “Purser died. Will you take the position (p. 6)?”
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      McConnell had graduated from medical school at TCD in 1909, and likely met Parker when he came to Mayo Clinic on November 26, 1923, to observe the work of Mayo neurosurgeon Alfred Adson.

      St Marys Hospital physician register. SMA-0100. Saint Marys Hospital Administration Records. SG02. Vol 6. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      There were other contributors to the move. Parker’s former resident Roland Mackay noted that “in the midst of all this vigorous activity he was nonetheless restless, discontented, and like all his expatriate countrymen, homesick for Ireland (p. 220).”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      Parker had more than one homeland, given that he spent many years of his youth in South Africa, but he clearly had a fondness for Ireland. A print currently hanging in the Woltman-Moersch library at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, titled The Blue Hills of Connemara (by Paul Henry) was inscribed to his Mayo Clinic Neurology colleagues with “from the country I love to the people I love.” The Great Depression led to decreased patient registration at Mayo Clinic starting in 1930, and reached the lowest in many years in 1932.
      Annual neurology report
      MHU-0002. Board of Governors Records. Subgroup SG02. Annual Reports. Series S02. Medical Specialties. Subseries SS04. Department of Neurology [non-surgical]. 1919–1985 (Sections of Neurology; Department of Neurology). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Patients understandably had great difficulty paying their bills.
      • Fye B.
      Caring For the Heart: Mayo Clinic and the Rise of Specialization.
      In response, salaries of the professional staff were reduced by 15% to 35%.
      • Whelan E.
      The Sisters' Story, Part Two: Saint Marys Hospital — Mayo Clinic, 1939 to 1980.
      Parker may have indirectly referred to these salary cuts in a letter to Charlie Mayo in 1935 after he returned to Ireland when he stated that “things are going well with me here—at least I am able to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast each morning and pay for them in advance (p. 2).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Charles H. Mayo, February 26, 1935. MHU-0618. Charles Horace Mayo Papers. Box 32. Subgroup 2. Series 2. Folder 114. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      A going-away party was held at the Rochester Country Club on July 12, 1934, during which Charlie Mayo remarked that “we at the clinic should not feel sad at losing one of our best men, we should look at it rather that such men would go to their native lands, and carry still further the ideals and traditions of the clinic, and put into practice what they had learned for the general good of humanity (p. 1).”

      Mayo CH. Remarks Mayo Clinic Staff Dinner in honor of Dr. Harry Lee Parker, Rochester Country Club, July 12, 1934. MHU 0618. Charles Horace Mayo Papers. Box 84. Folder 574. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Harry Lee Parker (Figure 5) returned to Ireland in August 1934, and became a staff physician at the Richmond, Whitworth, and Hardwicke Hospitals in Dublin.
      • O’Brien E.
      • Browne L.
      • O’Malley K.
      The House of Industry Hospitals, 1772-1987: The Richmond, Whitworth, and Hardwicke (St Laurence’s Hospital): A Closing Memoir.
      Although these hospitals had some private beds, they mostly served the poor: The inscription over the front hall arcade of the Richmond Hospital read “Necessitati haud gratiae hae portae patent” (to necessity, not influence, these doors are open).
      • O’Brien E.
      • Browne L.
      • O’Malley K.
      The House of Industry Hospitals, 1772-1987: The Richmond, Whitworth, and Hardwicke (St Laurence’s Hospital): A Closing Memoir.
      Harry also established a private neurologic practice, with consulting rooms at 20 Fitzwilliam Square from 1934–1937 and 32 Upper Fitzwilliam Street from 1938–1945.
      Parker was warned by the Dublin medical community when he first arrived that “if I confined my practice to neurology I would not make a living … for they felt [neurology] could be done well enough by the general practitioner (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Donald C. Balfour, January 23, 1940. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Figure thumbnail gr5
      Figure 5Harry Lee Parker in approximately 1934. The portrait was inscribed, “To the Best Department in the Mayo Clinic—May the good work go on—Harry Lee Parker.” By permission of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.
      Courtesy of the W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
      Parker continued to communicate with his friends William J. (Figure 6) and Charles H. Mayo, making observations about practice in Dublin and comparing it to Mayo Clinic. In a February 1935 letter to Charlie Mayo, Parked stated:“I have found after some weeks of anxiety that there was a place for me here and I am gradually and rather rapidly for a newcomer building up a nice consultation practice—each day some new member of the profession sends me a case or calls on me and it seems to be irrespective of politics or creed or medical school. I have had the usual failures, a few successful diagnoses, and a very few ‘cures (p. 1).’”

      Parker HL. Letter to Charles H. Mayo, February 26, 1935. MHU-0618. Charles Horace Mayo Papers. Box 32. Subgroup 2. Series 2. Folder 114. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Figure thumbnail gr6
      Figure 6William J. Mayo, undated. The portrait was inscribed, “To my friend & colleague Dr. H.L. Parker—with personal regards.” By permission of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.
      Courtesy of the W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
      In addition, Harry relayed to Charlie Mayo that his experience at Mayo Clinic prepared him to deal with “strange doctors who are, as usual, sensitive and ready to take offense.”

      Parker HL. Letter to Charles H. Mayo, February 26, 1935. MHU-0618. Charles Horace Mayo Papers. Box 32. Subgroup 2. Series 2. Folder 114. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He continued:“Medicine here is much as in the States except a death is not taken so seriously and I think the doctors fight more here with quips and jests and less with bitterness and rancor. I miss greatly my old colleagues and the ideal conditions of work in Rochester. McConnell is a great help. He and I are building up a neuro-surgical train and last month he removed a meningioma from a doctor’s head successfully without paralysis and with much comment (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Charles H. Mayo, February 26, 1935. MHU-0618. Charles Horace Mayo Papers. Box 32. Subgroup 2. Series 2. Folder 114. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      In June 1936, Parker was named an Honorary Professor of Neurology to TCD, which had been a life-long ambition.

      Parker HL. Letter to Henry Woltman, June 4, 1936. MHU-0620. William James Mayo Papers. Box 104. Subgroup 2. Series 6. Subseries 1. Folder 35. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He gave an update on his activities to Will Mayo that same year:“All I have done this year is get attached to a few more hospitals as consultant neurologist, written a few papers, and mainly, do as we all have to do, earn my bread and butter (pp. 2-4).”

      Parker HL. Letter to William J. Mayo, December 15, 1936. MHU-0620. William James Mayo Papers. Box 104. Subgroup 2. Series 6. Subseries 1. Folder 36. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker became a consultant neurologist at the Stewart Institute for Feebleminded Children, the Royal Hospital for Incurables, and the Bloomfield Mental, National Children’s, Mercer’s, Meath, and Orthopaedic Hospitals.

      Author unknown. Abstract of Irish Medical Directory and Hospital Year-Book 1945. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      By 1940, Parker could state that that he had “manifestly shown the medical world here that I have been more than successful (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Donald C. Balfour, January 23, 1940. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He noted that because of this, University College Dublin had recruited its own neurologist, Dr Edward L. Murphy:“It has hurt their feelings very much for me to take patients from them although they have been very kind in calling me in consultation up to date. Had I not blazed a trail in the last five years they would not worry their heads about such a specialty as neurology. This newcomer, I can readily see, has been put in to act as a competitor (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Donald C. Balfour, January 23, 1940. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker saw some memorable patients in Dublin. One such patient was a burglar, whose work entailed climbing up the sides of buildings.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      The patient had progressive numbness of the hands, and Harry told him he needed to seek alternative employment. The patient then became a fence, handling stolen merchandise, and made more money than he had as a burglar. He subsequently gifted Harry a set of dueling pistols, which are still in the Parker family. Family lore is that Harry proceeded to make his own gunpowder and shot a hole in his visitor’s couch.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Parker misdiagnosed a different patient, a streetcar conductor, with an incurable disease, and every time Harry boarded, the conductor would loudly proclaim “here is the doctor who said I’d be dead by now (p. 8).”
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      In a 1940 letter to psychiatrist Dr Karl Menninger, Parker noted that he was “working in the law courts and getting to know the legal fraternity both in court and at home (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Karl A. Menninger, December 12, 1940. Menninger Foundation Archives. Papers of the Menninger Family. Papers of Karl Augustus Menninger. Professional papers. Pa-Pi. Unit ID 248658. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      Parker was a Visitor in Lunacy for the Chief Justice,

      Author unknown. Abstract of Irish Medical Directory and Hospital Year-Book 1945. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      one of four examiners of persons designated wards of the court.
      • Parker F.
      Unedited preliminary biography of Harry Lee Parker, prepared for The National Cyclopaedia of National Biography
      MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
      This legal work supplemented his private practice income.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      In 1941, Parker made 5 guineas (a little over £5) for determining that a patient’s disabling mental illness was related to prior military service.
      • Parker H.L.
      Letter to the Medical Board, September 6, 1941. Defence Forces Ireland. Military Service Pension Collection. Charles F. Dalton file, p. 110.
      The patient was a ward of the court at Grangegorman Mental Hospital.
      • Parker H.L.
      Letter to the Medical Board, September 6, 1941. Defence Forces Ireland. Military Service Pension Collection. Charles F. Dalton file, p. 110.
      In court, Parker “could behave as if he were in a classroom (p. 94).”
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      From a research perspective, Harry continued to publish, but his pace slowed. Although Adams McConnell and Parker published one of the first descriptions of the surgical treatment of Chiari malformation in 1938,
      • McConnell A.A.
      • Parker H.L.
      A deformity of the hind-brain associated with internal hydrocephalus; its relation to the Arnold-Chiari malformation.
      ,
      • Duddy J.C.
      • Kennerk B.
      Adams Andrew McConnell (1884–1972): Pioneer of Irish neurosurgery.
      McConnell complained that Parker did not publish enough.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      Harry was granted the MD degree from Trinity College Dublin in 1945 (Figure 7), and later the process of obtaining it was explained:“The dean of Trinity College said to him, ‘you have a number of important publications in neurology; these will count as your thesis. You have done both graduate teaching and investigation; these will count as your graduate work. Neither requires any academic examination or defense. I shall therefore attest that you have fulfilled all requirements for the degree of doctor of medicine (p. 1).’”

      Parker F. Letter to James Eckman, July 3, 1963. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Figure thumbnail gr7
      Figure 7Harry Lee Parker (front row, fourth from left) after receiving the MD degree from Trinity College Dublin in 1945. By permission of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.
      Courtesy of the W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
      Parker was named a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland as well as the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      ,

      Author unknown. Abstract of Irish Medical Directory and Hospital Year-Book 1945. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He was President of the Dublin University Biological Association from 1943 to 1945, and similarly President of the Section of Medicine of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland from 1944 to 1945. He became a member of the Association of British Neurologists in 1934.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      ,

      Author unknown. Abstract of Irish Medical Directory and Hospital Year-Book 1945. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Harry’s teaching audience changed from mostly residents at Mayo Clinic to primarily medical students at the Richmond hospital. He held Tuesday morning ward rounds from October to June during his Dublin practice years, which were popular and drew large crowds of students.
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      Usually two patients were presented. He prepared the patients for their parts and promised they would be treated respectfully.
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      Parker felt that a student’s concentration was limited to 40 minutes.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      He “would look thunderstruck if asked questions, as if insulted that he had not made things clear (p. 92).”
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      Parker likened himself “to Charcot at the Salpetriere with his ‘Lecons [du] mardi (p. viii),’”
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      and humbly stated that “alas, there was not forthcoming his … genius for research, or his aptitude for correlating new facts (p. viii).”
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      The students thought Parker had an American accent, and he was nicknamed “Buffalo Bill (p. 93).”
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      Parker lived with his wife, two children, and a cat named Cleopatra at 20 Fitzwilliam Square and later at 23 Merlyn Park, near several embassies.
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      ,
      He enjoyed fishing, shooting wild fowl, and hunting rabbits (with the assistance of ferrets he kept) on the west coast of Ireland, by Lough Conn.
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      ,
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      He was a member of the Royal Irish Yacht Club and offended members with his red sail and shooting of birds with a rifle when he became bored.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      Parker had an extensive knowledge of Irish and English literature and was friends with Dr Oliver St John Gogarty, William Butler Yeats, and Liam O’Flaherty.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He enjoyed Veuve Clicquot champagne
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      and dining at Jammet’s French restaurant on Nassau Street (currently The Porterhouse Central restaurant), where he liked to order “Galway oysters in the shell, jellied calf head and brains with sauce ravigôte … crepes suzette … and a cold, brown, long-necked bottle of Steinberger Kabinett Spätlese of a good vintage (p. 294).”
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.

      Back to Rochester

      At some point during his stint in Dublin, Parker decided he and his family should move back to Rochester. The reasons for this were manifold. He wrote in 1945:“Lately I have been analysing some of my reasons for leaving here, and the one thing that stands out, whether it be in War or in Peace, is the complete scientific isolation from which I suffer. Up to date I am the only neurologist of repute in Ireland, and the lack of friendly competition and scientific stimulation leads to gangrene (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Donald C. Balfour, May 12, 1945. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Irish neurologist Hugh Staunton noted in 1988 that:“Harry Lee Parker was the first full-time neurologist in the country … He was an outstanding neurologist, with a reputation to match that of his contemporary surgeon Adams McConnell. He was impatient of the necessity to practise some psychiatry on the side, however. For that and other reasons, he was never really content here, and returned to the United States in 1945 … [to] the Mayo Clinic (p. 123).”
      • O’Brien E.
      • Browne L.
      • O’Malley K.
      The House of Industry Hospitals, 1772-1987: The Richmond, Whitworth, and Hardwicke (St Laurence’s Hospital): A Closing Memoir.
      Parker told his family that he practiced some outpatient psychiatry to “pay the bills (p. 8).”
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Although Harry initially told the Mayo brothers that he worked well with neurosurgeon Adams McConnell, their relationship soured later.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      Parker had a tough time with McConnell, who felt it was the neurologist’s duty to localize and get it right.

      Farrell M. Notes on Harry Lee Parker. June 2020. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Failure to achieve perfect localization provoked an outburst from the neurosurgeon.

      Farrell M. Notes on Harry Lee Parker. June 2020. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker got fed up with this and took refuge in drink.

      Farrell M. Notes on Harry Lee Parker. June 2020. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      The general impression was that Harry was unhappy and did not think much of his medical or neurosurgical colleagues.

      Farrell M. Notes on Harry Lee Parker. June 2020. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Irish neurologist Edward Martin noted that neither McConnell nor Parker was an easy colleague, and that they did not develop a friendly relationship.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      Mrs McConnell observed that her husband “was not heartbroken when Parker went back to the United States (p. 72).”
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      There was also “perpetual slight friction with Leonard Abrahamson, the senior physician [at the Richmond Hospital], though on a ward round each would give a courteous bow (p. 93).”
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      World War II also influenced Parker’s move from Dublin. Winston Churchill viewed Irish neutrality as self-serving and greedy, and Britain put in place a supply squeeze from 1941 on.
      • Evans B.
      Food, the Emergency and the lower-class Irish body, c. 1939–45.
      The lower classes were affected the most, and there were worries about a second famine.

      Parker HL. Letter to Donald C. Balfour, May 12, 1945. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker discussed the influence of World War II on him in 1945, and noted that there were severe shortages of tea, gasoline, coal, and candles.
      Author unknown
      Physician tells how Ireland weathered war. Smuggling rampant as shortages grew, Dr. Parker says.
      Automobile use was so limited (to doctors, members of the clergy, and those in government ministry) that on some days there were no cars on the roads. Households were forced to warm their homes exclusively with peat/turf instead of coal. Parker thought peat was a dirty form of fuel and that Dublin townhouses were not constructed to be heated with it.
      Author unknown
      Physician tells how Ireland weathered war. Smuggling rampant as shortages grew, Dr. Parker says.
      (He would later state how much he appreciated the central heating in his Rochester home.
      • Woolling K.R.
      Recollections of a Mayo Clinic Fellowship at Midtwentieth Century. 1948–1952. Indianapolis.
      ) There was plenty of food for Parker and his family other than citrus fruits.
      Author unknown
      Physician tells how Ireland weathered war. Smuggling rampant as shortages grew, Dr. Parker says.
      As a result of World War II austerity, Harry’s wife needed to start working as his office manager and receptionist.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Florence initially had the time of her life in Dublin and made many friends in the embassy circuit and American expatriate group,
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      but she became less enamored of the city during the war.
      • Martin E.A.
      A Historical Biographical and Anecdotal Account of the Neurological Sciences in Ireland from the earliest days to 1975.
      ,
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Parker noted another impact of the war in a letter to the Mayo Clinic Board of Governors:“Then the War came on, and all personal contact ceased. This was a grievous blow, for I had only just realized as a result of many happy meetings, one on your side [in 1937]
      • Parker H.L.
      Diseases of the nervous system in Ireland: some observations and comparisons.
      and many on this side of the Atlantic, what a companionship of friends I had left (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Mayo Clinic Board of Governors, May 12, 1945. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker requested to return to Mayo Clinic, and was appointed by the Mayo Clinic Board of Governors on April 6, 1945.

      Parker HL. Letter to Mayo Clinic Board of Governors, May 12, 1945. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      He had difficulty arranging a boat to America, but eventually he did so, sending a telegram on July 23, 1945, to Henry Woltman that read “on my way—full of beans—seeing you soon (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Telegram to Henry Woltman, July 23, 1945. MHU-0510. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. Resident files. Box 55. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      His wife noted that “Harry Lee told me one midnight that he would be off at four next morning on a freighter to the U.S., and off he went, leaving a pair of shoes under his desk in the consulting room, and me, to clear up the whole complicated mess of his sudden departure (p. 1).”

      Parker F. Letter to James Eckman, July 3, 1963. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Harry sailed with his son from Liverpool to New York City and arrived August 2, 1945.
      Ancestry.com
      New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc..
      He returned to work at Mayo Clinic on August 7, 1945, with the rank of professor of neurology (Figure 8).

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Figure thumbnail gr8
      Figure 8Harry Lee Parker in 1950. By permission of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.
      Courtesy of the W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
      His Mayo Clinic colleagues noticed something different about Parker upon his return to Rochester. Fred Moersch observed:“Harry’s sojourn to Ireland proved to be an unfortunate adventure. Disillusioned, he returned to the Clinic in [1945]. He was a changed man. The great drive was no more (p. 33).”

      Moersch FP. Evolution of the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry of the Mayo Clinic 1926-1956. Part II. 1967. MHU 0670. Memoirs and Department Histories Collection. Folder 177. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker was still excellent clinically, and was certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in December 1946 (certificate no. 2433).

      American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology certification of Dr. Harry Lee Parker. No. 2433. MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Mayo Clinic neurosurgical resident Irving Cooper, who trained from 1948–1951, noted:“Dr. Harry [Parker], an exceptional medical neurologist, a huge, red-faced immigrant to the Mayo Clinic from Ireland, taught me the significance of intuition in neurologic diagnosis and the importance of maintaining some semblance of humor in the face of relentless tragedy. He was a big, burly sack of clinical brilliance and kindness to his patients (p. 105).”
      • Cooper I.S.
      The Vital Probe: My Life as a Brain Surgeon.
      On the other hand, It was stated that “in his daily work with his associates and students at the Mayo Clinic he was loyal, eager but volatile, and at times moody and unpredictable (p. 221).”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      His obituary writer observed that Parker was “always restless, yearning for something more … it is candid to say that he was still not content nor quite happy [upon his return to Mayo Clinic] (p. 220).”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      Mackay observed that Parker’s “output of scientific papers diminished (p. 220).”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      Parker acknowledged in 1950 that “the academic and experimental phases of neurology have moved on and left me somewhat behind.”

      Parker HL. Letter to Karl A. Menninger, February 17, 1950. Menninger Foundation Archives. Corporate Records of the Menninger Foundation. Records of the Menninger Foundation Education Department. Menninger School of Psychiatry. Visiting professors. KMSP (Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry)—Visiting Professors, Ki-Pe. Unit ID 271741. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      Figure 9 summarizes Harry’s publications by era. Although he was much more academically productive in the first third of his career, Parker made significant contributions in his final years. He was the first to accurately describe paroxysmal dysarthria and ataxia in patients with multiple sclerosis, in 1946.
      • Klaas J.P.
      • Burkholder D.B.
      • Singer W.
      • Boes C.J.
      Harry Lee Parker and paroxysmal dysarthria and ataxia.
      ,
      • Parker H.L.
      Periodic ataxia.
      And in 1949, he published a paper on the neurologic manifestations of periarteritis nodosa (polyarteritis nodosa).
      • Parker H.L.
      • Kernohan J.W.
      The central nervous system in periarteritis nodosa.
      Figure thumbnail gr9
      Figure 9Harry Lee Parker’s publications by era.

      Parker HL. Publications. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      The y-axis is number of papers and the x-axis includes the three major eras of Parker’s academic career. Some papers were first published in an abbreviated form in the Proceedings of the Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic and subsequently elsewhere and therefore were counted twice.
      Parker’s main academic achievement in the latter part of his career was the publication of the book Clinical Studies in Neurology in 1956, which described his bedside teaching in Ireland in the 1930s (Figure 10).
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      Each chapter started with a quote from English, Irish, American, ancient Greek, or Biblical literature, followed by an anecdote, both dealing with the subject at hand. The diagnosis was given at the end of the presentation. The book was filled with historical allusions, and Parker highlighted local color by mentioning the sites he drove by on the way to the Richmond Hospital from his home (or visited at other times) including Merrion Square, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Saint Stephen’s Green, The Guinness Brewery, Davy Byrnes pub, Smithfield Market, and many others.
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      The writing was informal and witty while still being scientific.
      • Doyle J.B.
      Harry Lee Parker MD: 1894–1959.
      A reviewer noted that “one sees, feels, and even smells the scene and the patient (p. 679).”
      • Masten M.G.
      Book review of Clinical Studies in Neurology by Harry Lee Parker.
      There were many clinical pearls and memorable statements in the book (Table 3). The book cost $6.50, and sold well.

      Parker HL. Letter to Luman E. Daniels, July 30, 1956. MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Florence Parker reported in 1967 that she was getting three to four requests per month for copies of the out-of-print book,

      Parker F. Letter to James Eckman, December 31, 1967. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      and it went through a second printing in 1969. Although Parker was worried about negative reviews from “those who are so orthodox … that they can see no joy in life and less in neurology and depend on the dead house pathology for an inspiration of a kind (p. 1),”

      Parker HL. Letter to Karl A. Menninger, May 25, 1956. Menninger Foundation Archives. Papers of the Menninger Family. Papers of Karl Augustus Menninger. Professional papers. Pa-Pi. Unit ID 248658. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      he was reassured by positive comments from the neurologic critic Robert Wartenberg.

      Parker HL. Letter to Luman E. Daniels, July 30, 1956. MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      ,
      • Boes C.J.
      History of neurologic examination books.
      Ultimately, reviewers liked the book,
      • Masten M.G.
      Book review of Clinical Studies in Neurology by Harry Lee Parker.
      ,
      Author unknown. Book review of Clinical Studies in Neurology by Harry Lee Parker.
      • Williams D.
      Book review of Clinical Studies in Neurology by Harry Lee Parker.
      Author unknown. Book review of Clinical Studies in Neurology by Harry Lee Parker.
      Author unknown. Book review of Clinical Studies in Neurology by Harry Lee Parker.
      • Southcombe R.H.
      Book review of Clinical Studies in Neurology by Harry Lee Parker.
      the exception being R.E. Kelly in the journal Brain.
      • Kelly R.E.
      Book review of Clinical Studies in Neurology by Harry Lee Parker.
      In response to this mostly positive feedback, Parker “wrote half a dozen scathing reviews [of his book] for his own private amusement (p. 220).”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      Figure thumbnail gr10
      Figure 10Dust jacket (front panel) of Harry Lee Parker’s 1956 book Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      Table 3Clinical Pearls and Memorable Statements in Parker’s 1956 book Clinical Studies in Neurology
      • Parker H.L.
      Clinical Studies in Neurology.
      Clinical pearl/memorable statementPage number
      “A cut skin heals in six days, a broken bone in six weeks, but a damaged nerve may take six months or more.”11
      [When checking sensation] “always [work] from the area of diminished sensibility to that area where feeling is normal.”16
      “The old term, ‘paralysis agitans,’ [instead of Parkinson disease] should never be used. Its inexactitude lies in the fact that such patients are never paralyzed and not always do they shake.”23
      “Fasciculation plays over both upper extremities and chest muscles like trout jumping in a pool on a sullen day in May.”42
      “At an early age we learn that the highest point in neurology is testing sensation, and that the Mount Everest of all our laborious climbing comes in syringomyelia. Tabes dorsalis runs a close second.”43
      “In chronic subdural hematoma there may be no history of injury, in that it has been so slight that the patient has forgotten it.”50
      “As I passed that famous tavern of Davy Byrnes in Anne Street this morning, I remembered a character here called Soapy Mouth Burke. He had a habit of chewing soap until a liberal froth was engendered. Then he would fall suddenly on the street corner nearest Davy's place of refreshment, convulse in a scientifically accurate fashion and surround himself with a crowd of helpful, sympathetic folk. Coming out of his fit he would gasp, ‘Surgeon MacCarthy told me many a time that if I had one of them fits in the street, I was to be brought directly to Mister Byrnes' public house and made take three glasses of raw brandy!’”69
      “In the case of adolescents, a long skinny hobbledehoy may pass out at a long church session, from the effects of emotion, an empty stomach and standing for long intervals.”85
      “The so-called ‘whisky fits’ [alcohol withdrawal seizures] occur while a patient is recovering from an orgy of drink, and not during the actual period of imbibing.”87
      “I should like to advise you never, never to tell a patient with headaches that you suffer similarly, hoping so to give him the idea that because of personal experiences you have a more than sympathetic viewpoint with regard to his disease.”107
      “In public bars … [this patient with essential tremor] has to hold his glass with both hands, but he adds that as the evening progresses one only is sufficient.”116
      “We can not be too rigid in this prognostication [of inherited disorders], for even, at times, the peas fooled Mendel.”119
      “The inability to chew and the drooping lower jaw are pathognomonic signs of myasthenia gravis.”130
      [To a student who suggested doing a spinal tap on a patient with symptoms/signs of a cerebellar tumor with papilledema]: “The child would then be dead, dead, dead. And you, my friend, would be the executioner.”141
      “Length means vulnerability; therefore the long thoracic nerve is more easily injured, as are the sixth intracranial nerve and the sciatic.”145
      “The medulla oblongata and pons represent a crowded area of vital structures and do not suffer disease gladly.”154
      [A patient with tabes dorsalis] “walks like a cat on hot sand, lifting his feet too high each time he takes a step.”190
      [Advice to graduating medical students]: “You must remember one thing first, second and last, and that is to be kind, both to your patients and to your fellow craftsmen, above you, with you, or beneath you.”361
      Parker summarized the educational philosophy that guided his teaching of medical students and residents in 1956:“In teaching the main function is to interest the young. Knowledge and wisdom will follow later to those who listen. And yet all the time the spirit of humanism, kindliness, charity and love for our less fortunate fellow beings must be inculcated lest a patient becomes simply a mathematical formula to be solved and then thrown aside (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Donald C. Balfour, March 18, 1956. MHU-0607. Donald Church Balfour, Sr. Papers. Box 7. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      His Mayo Clinic resident Roland Mackay observed the following about Parker’s teaching, feedback, and approach to the doctor-patient relationship:“As consultant in neurology he exerted a profound scientific and personal influence upon a steady stream of medical and neurologic fellows who learned the intellectual discipline of neurologic diagnosis under his pungent and unforgettable tutelage … He was always an earnest, betimes caustic, but often gentle and considerate critic, whose homely aphorisms and ruthless rejection of sham left nothing doubtful or unclear. In his clinical teaching he painted with broad, sure strokes, abjuring the pretentious and the precious. He was thus a good teacher, with a flair for the essential and a rich sense of proportion. His sympathetic understanding and kindness to patients was a notable example to his students (p. 221).”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      Parker could be a bit hard on residents at times:“In about 1950, one of the fellows in Medicine, who had been in Rochester only a few months, was assigned to Neurology. His first patient in Neurology was one from Bogota who had been referred from Medicine and spoke no English. She had a skin rash on the right shoulder and sensory and motor problems in the right hand. The fellow had no idea of the nature of the problem but sent her to Dermatology to see Dr. Paul O'Leary. Later he discussed the problem with Dr. Harry Parker, the neurologist, who said it must be leprosy and immediately called Dr. O'Leary, hoping he had not yet been seen in Dermatology. When Dr. O'Leary answered, he replied, ‘Oh, you mean the patient with leprosy?’ Dr. Parker slammed down the telephone, uttered an expletive and was irritated he had not seen the patient beforehand. The fellow was chagrined, embarrassed and felt that he was in ‘the wrong league,’ that he belonged in the minors. He continued, however, and became chair of his sections and a member of the Board of Governors (p. 41).”

      Andersen HA. Mayo Alumni Association 1915–1992: An Abridged Version with Anecdotes. MHU 0676. Subject files collection. Folder 166. Mayo Alumni Association Histories. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Kenneth Woolling, a Mayo Clinic internal medicine resident in 1949, discussed what it was like to work with Parker:“Dr. Parker had a definite Irish accent and a deep voice, the latter most probably occasioned by his constant cigarette smoking. Before starting to see patients each morning, we all would gather in the staff room and linger for a while, briefly discussing general topics. I can still remember Dr. Parker puffing away on one cigarette after another, extinguishing the numerous butts in an ashtray. He had a love for funny and slightly risqué stories and would laugh heartily as each was told … Sadly, [the other resident on service] suffered from asthma and would often have an attack during our discussions, causing him to become very dyspneic and require the use of an inhaler of epinephrine for relief, which he would step outside the door to utilize (p. 85).”
      • Woolling K.R.
      Recollections of a Mayo Clinic Fellowship at Midtwentieth Century. 1948–1952. Indianapolis.
      To the Americans, Parker had an Irish or hard to place accent. When asked, he would say that he came from the East.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Harry and his wife Florence settled into their final Rochester home at 903 Sixth Avenue Southwest in approximately 1948, and in 1949 converted to Catholicism (from Protestantism).

      Baptism records of Harry Lee Parker and Florence Parker. May 7, 1949. St John's Catholic Church, Rochester, MN.

      Their daughter Sheila worked as head of the art section of the National Library of Medicine in Washington, DC, and their son Thomas completed a pathology residency at Mayo Clinic from 1955–1959.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      They added a dog named Snooksie to the family in the 1950s. Parker continued his strong interest in Irish and English literature. He was particularly fond of Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories and books involving Sherlock Holmes and Lewis Carroll’s books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

      Parker F. Letter to James Eckman, December 31, 1967. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      At the May 31, 1952, meeting of the Minnesota Society of Neurology and Psychiatry in Rochester, Harry gave an illustrated lecture on “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

      Memo to James Eckman, January 6, 1968. Concerning Minnesota Society of Neurology and Psychiatry Meeting May 31, 1952. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      For the talk he designed a 10-course menu of the day (“Carte du jour Hotel Carroll-Dodgson”) based on the foods mentioned in the writings of Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson).

      Parker HL. Carte du jour Hotel Carroll-Dodgson. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker excelled as an after-dinner speaker (Figure 11).
      Figure thumbnail gr11
      Figure 11Harry Lee Parker speaking at the retirement of Henry Woltman and Fred Moersch in 1954. From left to right: Florence Parker, Henry Woltman, Mildred Woltman, Harry Lee Parker, Agnes Moersch, Fred Moersch, and John Doyle. By permission of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.
      Courtesy of the W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Final Years

      In 1948, the first of many prolonged absences by Parker due to illness was recorded in the annual report of the Mayo Clinic Neurology Section.
      Annual neurology report
      MHU-0002. Board of Governors Records. Subgroup SG02. Annual Reports. Series S02. Medical Specialties. Subseries SS04. Department of Neurology [non-surgical]. 1919–1985 (Sections of Neurology; Department of Neurology). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      Harry “suffered from emphysema, which led to increasingly frequent periods of disability (p. 700),”
      • Doyle J.B.
      Harry Lee Parker MD: 1894–1959.
      was “bedeviled by cardiac weakness (p. 220),”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      and had gout.

      Parker HL. Letter to B.E. Boothe, December 29, 1954. Menninger Foundation Archives. Corporate Records of the Menninger Foundation. Records of the Menninger Foundation Education Department. Menninger School of Psychiatry. Visiting professors. KMSP (Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry)—Visiting Professors, Ki-Pe. Unit ID 271741. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      In a June 1950 letter to a colleague at the Menninger Clinic in Kansas, Parker mentioned that he thought he was going to “lose the tip of one of [his] fingers (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to B.E. Boothe, June 8, 1950. Menninger Foundation Archives. Corporate Records of the Menninger Foundation. Records of the Menninger Foundation Education Department. Menninger School of Psychiatry. Visiting professors. KMSP (Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry)—Visiting Professors, Ki-Pe. Unit ID 271741. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      He clarified in September 1950 that he had Raynaud’s syndrome, which required bilateral cervicothoracic sympathectiomies.

      Parker HL. Letter to B.E. Boothe, September 5, 1950. Menninger Foundation Archives. Corporate Records of the Menninger Foundation. Records of the Menninger Foundation Education Department. Menninger School of Psychiatry. Visiting professors. KMSP (Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry)—Visiting Professors, Ki-Pe. Unit ID 271741. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      Parker went on to note that “the operation was not without incident and it was even conjectured that I might leave the hospital in a horizontal position rather than a perpendicular one (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to B.E. Boothe, September 5, 1950. Menninger Foundation Archives. Corporate Records of the Menninger Foundation. Records of the Menninger Foundation Education Department. Menninger School of Psychiatry. Visiting professors. KMSP (Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry)—Visiting Professors, Ki-Pe. Unit ID 271741. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      He stated in 1952 that “I am afraid time and tissues are running against me (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to B.E. Boothe, September 22, 1952. Menninger Foundation Archives. Corporate Records of the Menninger Foundation. Records of the Menninger Foundation Education Department. Menninger School of Psychiatry. Visiting professors. KMSP (Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry)—Visiting Professors, Ki-Pe. Unit ID 271741. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      Parker also suffered from alcohol addiction and would sit in his basement and drink whiskey with beer chasers; it was said that time could be regulated by the sound of beer cans hitting the trash can.
      Parker family. Biography of Harry Lee Parker
      MHU-0653. Harry Lee Parker Papers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine.
      In 1954, Parker was named a senior neurology consultant at Mayo Clinic.
      In 1956, he mentioned that he was sad to see Henry Woltman and Fred Moersch finally retire but that he planned to do the same in 1959.

      Parker HL. Letter to Karl A. Menninger, May 25, 1956. Menninger Foundation Archives. Papers of the Menninger Family. Papers of Karl Augustus Menninger. Professional papers. Pa-Pi. Unit ID 248658. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      He was fine with this plan, stating that “I have had my innings and never can anyone play cricket with such a gallant company as I have done and I rejoice in the memories of games lost and won on the playing fields of Neurology (p. 2).”

      Parker HL. Letter to Karl A. Menninger, May 25, 1956. Menninger Foundation Archives. Papers of the Menninger Family. Papers of Karl Augustus Menninger. Professional papers. Pa-Pi. Unit ID 248658. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      Harry Lee Parker died on an Irish-foggy Sunday, March 1, 1959, at 4 AM, at age 65.

      Author unknown. Dr. Harry Lee Parker obituary. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      ,

      Parker F. Letter to James Drummond, April 6, 1959. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      The immediate cause of death listed on his death certificate was congestive heart failure due to hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

      Harry Lee Parker Certificate of Death. March 1, 1959. Vital records. History Center of Olmsted County.

      Sister Mary Brigh, administrator of St Mary’s Hospital, told Florence Parker that “we have lost our most colorful friend and our best teacher (p. 1).”

      Parker HL. Letter to B.E. Boothe, June 8, 1950. Menninger Foundation Archives. Corporate Records of the Menninger Foundation. Records of the Menninger Foundation Education Department. Menninger School of Psychiatry. Visiting professors. KMSP (Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry)—Visiting Professors, Ki-Pe. Unit ID 271741. Kansas Historical Society State Archives, Topeka, KS.

      Parker had planned to retire April 1, 1959.
      The Mayo Clinic neurology section was going to start a new tradition by presenting him the first gold Trömner reflex hammer, and in the future give those to retirees and distinguished visitors.

      Rooke ED. Harry Lee Parker-a presentation on retirement. March 3, 1959. MHU-0607. Donald Church Balfour, Sr. Papers. Box 7. Subgroup 2. Series 1. Folder 51. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Mayo Clinic neurologist Doug Rooke noted:“The only misgiving that arises on such a selection is that the standard becomes a stiff one. We may have trouble awarding such hammers in the future (p. 1).”

      Rooke ED. Harry Lee Parker-a presentation on retirement. March 3, 1959. MHU-0607. Donald Church Balfour, Sr. Papers. Box 7. Subgroup 2. Series 1. Folder 51. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Unfortunately the gold hammer presentation was scheduled for after Parker died, and the hammer was given to his wife in the family home instead (Figure 12).

      Parker F. Letter to James Drummond, April 6, 1959. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Florence Parker wrote to a friend “how this expression of the esteem of his friends would have cheered him; he regarded himself as a total failure (p. 2).”

      Parker F. Letter to James Drummond, April 6, 1959. MHU-0675. People Files Collection. Harry Lee Parker folder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

      Parker’s funeral was held at St John’s Catholic Church in Rochester at 9 AM on Tuesday March 3, 1959.
      He was buried at Calvary Cemetery (Figure 13), “far from his homeland, but near the scene of his greatest labors (p. 220).”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      His obituarist noted that Parker was a “shrewd clinician, skillful neurologist and memorable teacher (p. 219)”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      who “left the mark of his unique personality on those fortunate enough to have had him for friend and teacher (p. 221).”
      • Mackay R.P.
      Harry Lee Parker 1894–1959.
      Figure thumbnail gr12
      Figure 12Engraved, gold Trömner reflex hammer made for Parker as he neared retirement. Parker passed away in 1959 before it could be presented to him.
      Figure thumbnail gr13
      Figure 13The grave of Harry Lee and Florence Lampert Parker (A) at Calvary Cemetery in Rochester, MN (B). The photograph was taken on Memorial Day 2020. Note that Parker was a veteran of the British, not American, military and so the flag is likely incorrect. Harry became a United States citizen in 1927; before that he was a British subject. He and his wife converted to Catholicism in 1949 and thus are buried at this Catholic cemetery.

      Conclusion

      Harry Lee Parker’s biography reveals what it was like to live through the 1916 Easter Rising, World War I, 1918–1919 influenza pandemic, Irish War of Independence, Great Depression, and World War II, and highlights the individual and cumulative impacts of these historical events on a medical professional. Irish surgeon Thomas Myles opened the Mayo Clinic door for Parker because of his relationship with Will Mayo, but Harry’s performance got him the job there. Parker became friends with Will and Charlie Mayo. He could be tough on those he worked with, but he was notably gentle with patients. Harry shined as a teacher of neurology, and this was his greatest educational achievement; the book Clinical Studies in Neurology was his second greatest educational accomplishment. Parker had a great eye for research topics, and many are still of interest (paraneoplastic disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, paroxysmal symptoms of multiple sclerosis). The bulk of his research occurred in the first 15 years of his career, and he had national and international influence on the field of neurology. Harry Lee Parker had a restless spirit, and an unforgettable personality.

      Acknowledgments

      The authors thank Nicole Babcock, AA, Mona Stevermer, MLS, Emily Christopherson, MLS, Karen Koka, MLS, and Renee Ziemer, BA (W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine); Kent Parker, Wendy Parker, MS, and Melissa Le, BS (Parker family members); Harriet Wheelock, MA (Royal College of Physicians of Ireland); Aisling Lockhart (Trinity College Dublin); Megan Burton, MLIS (Kansas Historical Society); Krista Lewis, MA (History Center of Olmsted County); Doreen Jensen, Andrew Lees, FMedSci, Michael Farrell, FRCPI, Candace Braksick, Dan Healy, MD, PhD, and Brian Sweeney, FRCP, FRCPI.

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