Hyperparathyroidism, milk-alkali syndrome, and hyperoxaluria are just a few of the unusual medical terms I have needed to become familiar with over the past few weeks.

These are all terms which appear frequently in the archive of Professor Leslie Norman Pyrah (1899-1995), which I’ve been cataloguing. Pyrah was an eminent urological surgeon from Leeds, and his archive provides a fascinating insight into developments in renal medicine during the 20th century.

Portrait of Leslie Pyrah
Portrait of Leslie Pyrah, 1931 (unknown photographer). Image credit Leeds University Library

Pyrah had a distinguished career at the University of Leeds between 1930 and 1964. He was a student of the Leeds School of Medicine and trained at the Leeds General Infirmary. One of his training posts was with the famous abdominal surgeon Berkeley G.A. Moynihan (1865-1936), first Baron Moynihan.

In 1956, Pyrah took up the first ever Chair in Urological Surgery in the UK, at Leeds University. He set up the Medical Research Council Unit for the Study of Mineral Metabolism at the Leeds General Infirmary as well as the first renal haemodialysis unit in the UK, which was run by Frank Maudsley Parsons (1918-1989).

The archive spans the course of Pyrah’s impressive career. Many of the documents have been bound into 40 individual volumes which are arranged into various themes. We also have almost 50 boxes of drafts, illustrations and research material used for producing his book “Renal Calculus”, published in 1979. It’s been eye-opening finding out about so many different kidney diseases, operations, and treatments for stones.

Blood Transfusion Bottle
‘Blood transfusion bottle, capped, with associated parts, Eng’ by Science Museum, London. Credit: Science Museum, London. CC BY

Interestingly, Pyrah was the founder of the Leeds Blood Transfusion Service in 1931, establishing a list of volunteer donors in the city. The first ever blood donor service was set up by the Red Cross in London in 1921, and it’s likely that Pyrah’s was one of the earliest regional services.

Before the donor list was set up, hospitals would usually ask a member of the patient’s family to donate blood and would need to undertake blood type testing before it could be used. The Leeds Service was replaced by the National Blood Transfusion Service which was established in 1946, under the control of the Ministry of Health.

Explore the Leslie Pyrah Archive on our catalogue [ref: LUA PYR]


Source: British Red Cross website, ‘The history of blood transfusion’ http://www.redcross.org.uk/en/About-us/Who-we-are/Museum-and-archives/Historical-factsheets/Blood-transfusion [accessed 27/02/2018]