Wellesley loses one of its best/brightest: Nobel Prize-winning Dr. Joseph Murray dead at 93

Dr. Joseph MurrayDr. Joseph Murray, the Wellesley resident renowned for performing the first successful organ transplant and for making huge advances in plastic/reconstructive surgery, has died at the age of 93 after suffering a stroke on Thanksgiving.

The 1990 Nobel Prize in Medicine winner died at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the same place he conducted his historic operations. The father of six also served as the first chief of plastic surgery at Children’s Hospital in Boston and during the 1940s, while with the Army Medical Corps, he treated wounded World War II soldiers whose hands and faces were disfigured (among his most amazing patients: pilot Charles Woods, who was severely burned in an airplane crash while in the Army.)

Murray’s most famous surgery came in 1954 at what was then called Peter Bent Brigham Hospital when he was lead surgeon for the world’s first successful human-to-human organ transplant, which involved identical twin brothers Richard and Ronald Herrick (the donor, Richard, died two years ago in Maine at the age of 79). The surgery was extremely controversial at the time, but according to the hospital, techniques pioneered by Murray and his team have led to 600,000 life-saving transplants since.

Murray transplant surgery
Via Brigham and Women’s Hospital


Here’s a good profile of Murray from today’s Boston Globe, and for an even more personal look at the man, I suggest reading his autobiography, called Surgery of the Soul, in which Murray recounts everything from his childhood on up throughout what was a fascinating and honorable life. Murray has been recognized by Wellesley in recent years during the Annual Veterans’ Parade in May.

More obituaries and tributes here from Reuters and BloombergBusinessweek.