He is the son of Marie Stopes, the women's rights and family planning pioneer, and Humphrey Verdon Roe. He started his career as a physicist, and received a BSc and MSc in physics from Imperial College, London. Thanks to studying physics Harry was exempt from military call-up during the Second World War. Once he graduated, his mother used her contacts to ensure he was offered a job in the University, and his exemption from serving was therefore continued. He then went to Cambridge University, and took a PhD in philosophy.
After Harry married a myopic woman, his mother, an advocate of eugenics, cut him out of her will. His wife—Mary Eyre Wallis, later Mary Stopes-Roe—was the daughter of the noted engineer Barnes Wallis. Stopes reasoned that prospective grandchildren might inherit the condition.
He became a lecturer in Science Studies at Birmingham University, bringing together physics with philosophy. His work led him to seek a non-religious basis for morality in secular humanism, and he became Chair of the British Humanist Association as well as having an active role in the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).
In the 1970s, he was largely responsible for developing the BHA's policy on education, covering both religious and non-religious life stances. Stopes-Roe invented and popularised the term "life stance", initially in the context of debates over the controversial content of the City of Birmingham's Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education in 1975, which referred to "non-religious stances for living". In the late 1980s, he initiated a successful campaign for the adoption of the term by the IHEU and other organisations. He is currently president of Birmingham Humanists.
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