BOSTON − Nobel Prize winner, surgeon Dr. Joseph Murray died on Monday (Western Time) at the age of 93.
Dr. Murray, the surgeon who performed the first successful kidney transplant and later won himself a Nobel Prize for his work in medicine and physiology dies after suffering a stroke at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (formerly Peter Bent Brigham Hospital), the very hospital where he performed the surgery that would transform the field of medicine.
The hospital president Dr. Elizabeth Nabel said in a statement that Murray and his team’s successful human organ transplant, taking a kidney from an identical twin, in 1954 opened a new field in medicine. “The world is a better place because of all Dr. Murray has given. His legacy will forever endure in our hearts and in every patient who has received the gift of life through transplantation,” Nabel added.
Dream to become a Surgeon
In an autobiography, Murray wrote “From earliest memory I wanted to be a surgeon, possibly influenced by the qualities of our family doctor who cared for our childhood ailments.”
“As a second year high school chemistry student, I still have a vivid memory of my excitement when I first saw a chart of the periodic table of elements. The order in the universe seemed miraculous, and I wanted to study and learn as much as possible about the natural sciences,” Murray added.
Dr. Murray’s graduated from Harvard Medical School in the 1940s.
His interest in the biology of tissue and organ transplantation arose when he was serving the military at Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania.
“As a First Lieutenant with only a nine-month surgical internship behind me, I was randomly assigned to VFGH to await overseas duty. World War II was still raging, the Rhine River had not been crossed, the Battle of the Bulge was ahead,” he wrote.
While treating the soldiers during World War II, he realized the biggest obstacle in the procedure was the immune system’s rejection of foreign tissue.
“The slow rejection of the foreign skin grafts fascinated me. How could the host distinguish another person’s skin from his own?” he noted.
He joined the staff and serve as chief of plastic surgery department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The knowledge he pioneered resulted to more than half a million of organ transplants in the history of mankind.
A religious man, he told the Harvard University Gazette in 2001 that “Work is a prayer. And I start off every morning dedicating it to our Creator.”
In the autobiography he wrote for the Nobel, Dr. Murray shared that: “ I have been blessed in our lives beyond my wildest dreams.”
“My only wish would be to have ten more lives to live on this planet. If that were possible, I’d spend one lifetime each in embryology, genetics, physics, astronomy and geology. The other lifetimes would be as a pianist, backwoodsman, tennis player, or writer for the National Geographic,” he added.
He concluded: “I’d like to keep open the option for another lifetime as a surgeon-scientist.”