First Organ Transplant Doctor Dead at 93
Dr. Joseph Murray won Nobel for pioneering work
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2012 1:03 AM CST
Updated Nov 27, 2012 1:18 AM CST
This July 28, 2004 photo shows Dr. Joseph Murray, who performed the world's first successful kidney transplant and won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work.   (AP Photo/Eric Miller, File)

(Newser) – Tens of thousands of people alive today owe their lives to techniques pioneered by Dr. Joseph Murray, who has died at the age of 93 in the same Boston hospital where he carried out the world's first successful human organ transplant. Murray made history in 1954 when he transplanted a kidney from a healthy 23-year-old man into his ailing identical twin, the New York Times reports. Five years later, he made the first successful transplant into a nonidentical recipient, and in 1962 he carried out the first successful transplant using a kidney from a cadaver.

Murray served in the Army Medical Corps in World War II, where his experiences treating badly burned soldiers led to his lifelong work in transplantation and facial reconstruction. In the early '50s, organ transplantation was considered a "fringe project" and he was urged to focus on something more realistic, he wrote in his 2001 autobiography Surgery of the Soul. Before the first successful transplant, "we were criticized for playing God," and he only went ahead with the surgery after consulting with clergy from several denominations, he recalled. Murray, who is survived by his wife and six children, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1990.

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Showing 3 of 8 comments
Nov 27, 2012 12:17 PM CST
Nov 27, 2012 11:36 AM CST
RIP great and noble trailblazer.
Nov 27, 2012 7:45 AM CST
"he only went ahead with the surgery after consulting with clergy from several denominations" What a huge waste of this genius time! Think about it. To keep them from burning you at the stake, not only do you have to stop everything to go convince a group of anti-progressive anti-science tradition-bent hard core spiritual loyalists of something completely unheard of and witchcraft sounding, he had to do it over and over and over facing a different mindset each time. Holy crap. I admire him just for that!