George Ralph Mines; Cardiology's Forgotten Genius
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George Ralph Mines; Cardiology's Forgotten Genius

George Ralph Mines went on to become a leading light in cardiology research, when he identified the vulnerable period of the heart.

There are many unsung heroes of the medical research world.Men and women who gave their time and in some cases, their lives to the furthering of medical knowledge.

One such man who is little known,but whose concepts of the ventricle have become cornerstones in todays treatment of cardiac electrophysiology and indeed, gave both his time and his life, is George Ralph Mines, who discovered the basic mechanisms for re-entrant arrhythmias and identified the 'vulnerable period' of the heart,during his short but eminent career. 

The vulnerable period of the heart ( VP ) is a time during the heart's normal cardiac cycle when stimuli could lead to repetitive activity, such as tachycardia, atrial flutter or ventricular fibrillation, which still persists long after stimuli has ceased.

Ventrical fibrillation ( VF ) is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death, and is charecterised by way of the 'T wave' on an ECG ( ElectroCardioGram ) reading. 


Born in Bath,on the 13 th of May 1886, he was the eldest son of schools inspector,Harry. R. Mines and Alice E. Ward.He had one younger sibling Lily and the family lived at 9, Raglan Street, Bath.

He was educated first at Bath College in Somerset,and after a family move to Kings Lynn in Norfolk, The King Edward V11 School, in Kings Lynn.

He was awarded a fellowship to Sydney Sussex College Cambridge,where he became praelector in 1911, gaining a first class natural science tripos,parts one and two,the Allen Scholarship and the Gedge Prize all in that same year.

His professional history also began at Sydney Sussex,where in 1911 he became supervisor of studies and demonstrator in physiology.

In 1912 he lectured at the University of London followed shortly by a directorship of physiology at the Balfour Laboratory,Girton College,Cambridge in 1913, becoming their examiner in physiology a year later in 1914.

During the middle part of that year he accepted the post of special lecturer at the University of Toronto, Canada and within months,was offered a professorship at McGill University, Montreal. 


 George Ralph Mines, 1886 - 1914. 


On the 29th of June 1909 he married Marjory Rolfe,second daughter of the reverand George Wilkinson Rolfe and Edith Sheward, of Swanton Novers in Norfolk.

They were married at her father's church of St Edwards, and the service was officiated by her uncle Thomas Forster Rolfe.

They went on to have three children,Hilary born in 1910, Felix born in 1912 and a second daughter Anatole,born posthumously in 1915.

He met Marjory whilst she was studying poetry at Newnham College, Cambridge. She was an eminent poetess and studied along side Robert Brook,and like Brooke,went on to have several poems published,her most famous being 'The Quest' which was penned in her married name of Mines,and was set to music by Cyril Rootham,and published by Stainer and Bell in 1912.

Their family home was at 4, Selwyn Gardens, Cambridge,where George was able to indulge in his second passion,music.

He had been a fine pianist,and had actually considered a career in music before finally settling on medicine.

However,his gift for music had not been lost,as his youngest daughter Anatole,went on to achieve world acclaim as a concert violist, and is still remembered today in the world of classical music studies,by way of the Anatole Mines musical scholarship and the Anatole Mines Chamber Music Award.

He was also a lover of literature and avidly followed the works of Anatole France,( Jacques Anatole Thibault 1844- 1924 ) the Nobel literary prizewinner in 1921, hence the naming of his third child of Anatole, even though she was female.

However his passions were not all of the academic,as it is known that he rode a large and powerful motorbike! 


McGill medical lecture theatre 1914.

During his professional life he had 13 works published in the Journal of Physiology,between the years of 1907 and 1914. 

He was considered a master of ingenuity and mechanical expertise,typified by his own constructions of apparatus used in his research.

He bore brilliant intellectual achievements,but on a darker note,also harboured an intense desire for self- experimentation.

Is it this intense desire that finally became his downfall, and the reason we lost one of the mediacl world's most brilliant and vibrant physiologists in the field of cardiology?

George was found unconscious in his laboratory at McGill University on the night of Saturday the 7th of November 1914.

He was rushed to the Queen Victoria Hospital in Montreal,where it was said he did regain consciousness for a time,but died two hours later.

His autopsy findings said the cause of death was a fatal ventricular dysrhythmia,he had also been found wired up to one of his self made cardiac apparatus. 

He was infact well known for implementing his own clinical apparatus, but not well known for actually practising on them. 

All this happened just a month after his oration at The Founders Day celebrations at McGill on October 6th,where he spoke of his admiration for certain persons who were known for self experimentation.

One has to wonder if this is the reason that the medical world lost one of its leading lights in cardiac research, at the age of only 29.

George Ralph Mines was interred in Mont Royal cemetery in Montreal Canada on the 9th of November 1914,after a three P.M funeral in the chapel of rest at the Queen Victoria Hospital.


Mont Royal cemetery, Montreal, Canada. 




Bath College.Bath Somerset.

King Edward V11 school,Kings Lynn, Norfolk.

Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge.

1904- Exhibitioner of natural sciences.

1905-1908- Scholar

1909-The second Walsingham medal..

1909- Fellow.

1911-Praelector. First class natural sciences tripos,parts 1 and 11.The Allen Scholarship. The Gedge prize.

1911- Supervisor of studies in physiology, Demonsrator in physiology.



1912- Lecturer at London University.

1913- Director of physiology at the Balfour laboratory.

1914-Examiner in physiology for medical exams.

Special lecturer in physiology University of Toronto.

Professor of physiology McGill University,Montreal.



Works featured in the Journal of Physiology 1907 - 1914;

Temperature and excitability. May 6 1907.

The effect of hirudin upon the gases in arterial blood. December 31 1907.

On the Munchi arrow poison and strophantin. May 6 1908.

On spontaneous movements of amphibian skeletal muscle in saline solutions with observations on the influence of potassium and calcium chlorides on muscle excitability. December 15 1908.

The action of beryllium,lanthanum,yttrium and cerium on the frogs heart. May 13 1910.

On replacement of calcium in certain neuro-muscular mechanisms by allied substances. March 29 1911.

The actions of tri-valant ions on living cells and on colloidal systems- simple and complex. May 22 1911.

On relations to electrolytes of the hearts of different species of animals. Elasmobrachs and pecten. February 27 1912.

On summation of contractions. March 3 1913.

On functional analysis by the action of electrolytes. June 19 1913.

The influence of nerve stimulation on the electrocardiogram. July 18 1913.

On dynamic equilibrium in the heart. July 18 1913.

Further experiments on the action of the vagus on the electrocardiogram of the frogs heart. February 27 1914. 


The author of this article wishes to convey grateful thanks to all at McGill University's Osler library and Archives Department for their help and co - operation during the research of this article.


                                                                         © D.B.Bellamy. April 2010.


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Comments (1)

great tribute to a very clever man