Thomas Earl Starzl was born into a prominent Le Mars, Iowa, family of German extraction.
Starzl, Thomas Earl was born on March 11, 1926 in Le Mars, Iowa, United States to Roman F. and Anna Laura (Fitzgerald) Starzl. His father was also a frustrated inventor. His mother, Anna Loretta (Laura) Fitzgerald Starzl, was the center of family life and when she died of breast cancer just before Starzl graduated from college the family disintegrated. Starzl had an older brother, two younger sisters, and from his father's second marriage, a half sister.