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Joseph Murray

Joseph Murray
Born Joseph Edward Murray
(1919-04-01)April 1, 1919
Milford, Massachusetts, U.S.[1]
Died November 26, 2012(2012-11-26) (aged 93)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Residence Wellesley, Massachusetts, United States of America
Nationality American
Fields transplantation
Alma mater College of the Holy Cross and Harvard Medical School[2]
Known for First successful Kidney transplant
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990

Joseph Edward Murray (April 1, 1919 – November 26, 2012) was an American plastic surgeon who performed the first successful human kidney transplant on identical twins Richard and Ronald Herrick on December 23, 1954.[1][2][3]

Murray shared the [4][5][6]


  • Life 1
  • Career 2
  • Death 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Murray was born to William A. and Mary (née DePasquale) Murray, and grew up in Milford, Massachusetts. He was of Irish and Italian descent.[7] A star athlete at the Milford High School, he excelled in football, ice hockey, and baseball. Upon graduation, Murray attended the College of the Holy Cross intending to play baseball; however, baseball practices and lab schedules conflicted, forcing him to give up the sport. He studied philosophy and English, earning a degree in humanities in 1940. Murray later attended Harvard Medical School. After graduating with his medical degree, Murray began his internship at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. During that time, he was inducted into the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army.

He served in the plastic surgery unit at Pennsylvania. It was here that he worked for an esteemed plastic surgeon, Dr. Bradford Cannon, and developed a lifelong passion for plastic surgery. His unit cared for thousands of soldiers wounded on the battlefields of World War II, working to reconstruct their disfigured hands and faces. His interest in transplantation grew out of working with burn patients during his time in the Army. Murray and his colleagues observed that the burn victims rejected temporary skin grafts from unrelated donors much more slowly than had been expected, suggesting the potential for organ grafts, or transplants.

After his military service, Murray completed his general surgical residency, and joined the surgical staff of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. He then went to New York to train in plastic surgery at New York and Memorial Hospitals, returning to the Brigham as a member of the surgical staff in 1951.

In 2001, Murray published his autobiography, Surgery Of The Soul: Reflections on a Curious Career.[8]


On December 23, 1954, Murray performed the world's first successful renal transplant between the identical Herrick twins at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (later Brigham and Women's Hospital), an operation that lasted five and a half hours. He was assisted by Dr. J. Hartwell Harrison and other noted physicians. In Operating Room 2 of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Murray transplanted a healthy kidney donated by Ronald Herrick into his twin brother Richard, who was dying of chronic nephritis. Richard lived for eight more years, following the operation. In 1959, Murray went on to perform the world's first successful allograft and, in 1962, the world's first cadaveric renal transplant.

Throughout the following years, Murray became an international leader in the study of transplantation biology, the use of immunosuppressive agents, and studies on the mechanisms of rejection. In the 1960s, top scientists investigating immunosuppressive drugs sought to work with Murray. Together, they tailored the new drug Imuran for use in transplants. The discovery of Imuran and other anti-rejection drugs, such as azathioprine and prednisone, allowed Murray to carry out transplants from unrelated donors. By 1965, the survival rates after receiving a kidney transplant from an unrelated donor exceeded 65%.

As a Harvard Medical School faculty member, Murray trained physicians from around the world in transplantation and reconstructive surgery, frequently performing surgeries in developing countries. In his 20 years as director of the Surgical Research Laboratory at Harvard and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, he inspired others who became leaders in transplantation and biology throughout the world. He served as chief plastic surgeon at the Peter Bent Brigham (which later became Brigham and Women's Hospital) until 1986. He also served as chief plastic surgeon at Children's Hospital Boston from 1972–85, retiring as professor of Surgery Emeritus in 1986 from Harvard Medical School.

In 1990, he was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work in organ transplantation.

Murray was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences and as a regent of the American College of Surgeons. He received the American Surgical Association's Medal for Distinguished Service to Surgery, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Francis Amory Prize, the American Association of Plastic Surgeons' Honorary Award and Clinician of the Year Award, and the National Kidney Foundation's Gift of Life Award. He was named one of the 350 most outstanding citizens, representing the medical profession, for the City of Boston's 350th anniversary. In 1996, he was appointed Academician[9] of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican.


Murray died on November 26, 2012, aged 93. He suffered a stroke at his suburban

  • Nobel Prize
  • Autobiography on
  • The Joseph E. Murray papers can be found at The Center for the History of Medicine at the Countway Library, Harvard Medical School.

External links

  1. ^ a b Sleeman, Elizabeth (2003). The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge.  
  2. ^ a b  
  3. ^ Tullius, S. G. (2013). "Dr. Joseph E. Murray (1919-2012): A Life of Curiosity, Humanism, and Persistence". American Journal of Transplantation 13 (1): 5–6.  
  4. ^ Guild, W. R.; Harrison, J. H.; Merrill, J. P.; Murray, J. (1955). "Successful homotransplantation of the kidney in an identical twin". Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association 67: 167–173.  
  5. ^ Watts, G. (2011). "Joseph Murray: Innovative surgeon and pioneer of transplantation". The Lancet 377 (9770): 987.  
  6. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1990". Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute. Retrieved November 27, 2012. 
  7. ^ Joseph E. Murray and the Story of the First Human Kidney Transplant ISBN 1584151366
  8. ^ Pai, Sanjay A. (2002). "Surgery of the Soul: Reflections on a Curious Career". BMJ 324 (7340): 795.  
  9. ^ "Joseph Murray". Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Dr. Joseph E. Murray, who performed first successful organ transplant, dies at 93". Retrieved November 27, 2012. 


Murray is featured in the book Beyond Recognition, previously titled Camel Red. The book is the story of Larry Heron, who was very seriously injured in World War II, and his road to recovery, which reunited him with Dr. Murray, a former classmate.


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