Joseph Edward Murray Edit Profile
He grew up to be an athletic young boy and was a star performer at the Milford High School. He played a variety of sports like football, ice hockey, and baseball. He joined the College of the Holy Cross after finishing high school where he studied philosophy and English, earning a degree in humanities in 1940.
Becoming a doctor was a childhood dream and the young man enrolled at the Harvard Medical School. The four years he spent there were rich and full of stimulating intellectual experiences. He graduated in 1943.
Murray entered the Army Medical Corps in 1944. As an army doctor, he learned to use cadaver skin to treat burned soldiers. The transplanted skin would survive for only eight to ten days before peeling off, but this experience gave him the idea that tissue from one person might survive on another.
After the war, he joined the surgical staff of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. He then underwent training in plastic surgery at New York and Memorial Hospitals. He returned to Brigham in 1951.
The idea of organ transplantation was novel for those times and Murray was often discouraged by his peers and seniors in his quest to make human organ transplantation a reality. Nonetheless, he investigated the possibilities of organ transplants by testing surgical techniques on dogs.
In October 1954, a patient named Richard Herrick was admitted to the hospital. He was suffering from chronic nephritis, a kidney disease, and was on the verge of death. His healthy identical twin brother, Ronald, was willing to give him a kidney. Murray was asked if he would perform the surgery.
Joseph E. Murray performed the surgery—the world’s first human renal transplant—between the Herrick twins at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in December 1954. He was assisted by J. Hartwell Harrison and other noted physicians in the grueling operation which lasted five and a half hours. The surgery was successful and Richard lived for eight more years.
Murray went on to perform the world's first successful allograft—the transplantation of tissues or organs to a recipient from a genetically non-identical donor—in 1959 and the world’s first cadaveric renal transplant in 1962. Over the years he became an international leader in the study of transplantation biology.
He collaborated with top scientists in the 1960s to develop the new drug Imuran (generic azathioprine) for use in transplants which proved to be very helpful in transplants from unrelated donors.
Murray trained physicians from around the world in transplantation and reconstructive surgery as a Harvard Medical School faculty member. He served as chief plastic surgeon at the Peter Bent Brigham until 1986 and also at Children's Hospital Boston from 1972–85. He retired as professor of Surgery Emeritus from Harvard Medical School in 1986.
In 2001, Murray published his autobiography, Surgery Of The Soul: Reflections on a Curious Career.
Murray died on November 26, 2012, aged 93. He suffered a stroke at his suburban Boston home on Thanksgiving and died at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the very hospital where he had performed the first organ transplant operation.
He said about religion:
"Is the Church inimical to science? Growing up as a Catholic and a scientist - I don't see it. One truth is revealed truth, the other is scientific truth. If you really believe that creation is good, there can be no harm in studying science. The more we learn about creation - the way it emerged - it just adds to the glory of God. Personally, I've never seen a conflict. "
"Its the best time ever to be a doctor because you can heal and treat conditions that were untreatable even a few years ago. "
"And I start off every morning dedicating it to our Creator. "
"Post-operatively the transplanted kidney functioned immediately with a dramatic improvement in the patients renal and cardiopulmonary status. This spectacular success was a clear demonstration that organ transplantation could be life-saving. "
"You cannot stop the human mind from working. "
"Animal experimentation has been essential to the development of all cardiac surgery, transplantation surgery, joint replacements and all vaccinations. "
"It is probably no exaggeration to suppose that in order to improve such an organ as the eye at all, it must be improved in ten different ways at once. And the improbability of any complex organ being produced and brought to perfection in any such way is an improbability of the same kind and degree as that of producing a poem or a mathematical demonstration by throwing letters at random on a table. "
"One of my surgical giant friends had in his operating room a sign "If the operation is difficult, you aren't doing it right. " What he meant was, you have to plan every operation You cannot ever be casual You have to realize that any operation is a potential fatality. "
"Stem cells are probably going to be extremely useful. But it isn't a given, and even if it were, I don't think the end justifies the means. I am not against stem cells, I think it's great. Blanket objection is not very reasonable to me-any effort to control scientific advances is doomed to fail. You cannot stop the human mind from working. "
"To the patient, any operation is momentous. "
"I wanted to be a surgeon, possibly influenced by the qualities of our family doctor who cared for our childhood ailments. "
"I was performing skin grafts and became interested in why skin wouldn't graft permanently. "
"I've never regretted a swim"
"I tell (medical students) that they are the luckiest persons on earth to be in medical school, and to forget all this worry about H. M. O. 's and keep your eye on helping the patient. It's the best time ever to be a doctor because you can heal and treat conditions that were untreatable even a couple of years ago. "
"The slow rejection of the foreign skin grafts fascinated me. How could the host distinguish another person's skin from his own?"
Murray was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences and as a regent of the American College of Surgeons. In 1996, he was appointed Academician of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican.
While Joseph E. Murray was a medical student, he fell in love with Bobby Link, a music student, who he met at a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert. They got married in June 1945 and had six children.
DiedJanuary 26, 2012 (aged 92)
Resting placeChrist Church Cemetery, Boston, Massachusetts, United States