Dr. Joseph E. Murray Dies: Nobel Prize Winning Transplant Doctor Passes Away At 93

Joseph E. Murray, a Nobel Prize winner who conducted the world’s first successful organ transplant, died Monday a hospital in Boston. He was 93.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Murray suffered a stroke at his suburban Boston home on Thanksgiving and died at Brigham and Women’s Hospital on Monday.

Born in Milford, Massachusetts in 1919, Murray was a star athlete in his high school days, excelling in football, ice hockey, and baseball. Upon graduation from high school, Murray attended the College of the Holy Cross with the intention of continuing his sports career but was forced to give it up due to grueling lab schedules that conflicted with his practices.

After graduating from medical school, Murray joined the US Army where he studied surgery at Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania.

In December 1954, Murray and his team of associates performed the world’s first successful renal (kidney) transplant between the identical Herrick twins at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Prior to the operation there had never been a successful human organ transplant.

After the operation, the sick twin had a functioning kidney transplanted from his brother. He lived another eight years, marrying a nurse he met at the hospital and having two children.

In addition to saving Herrick’s life, Murray’s work opened medicine to a new frontier.

“Dr. Murray opened the doors for hundreds of thousands of people to receive life-saving transplants,” said Dr. Betsy Nabel, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital “To date, more than 600,000 people world-wide have received the gift of life through transplantation.”

For his groundbreaking organ transplant work, Dr. Murray was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1990, an honor he shared with Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, a pioneer in bone marrow transplants who died in October.

In addition to his wife, Bobby, Dr. Murray leaves three sons, J. Link Murray of Jamestown, R.I., Thomas of Dallas, Texas, and Richard of Scituate; three daughters, Ms. Virginia Murray of Plymouth, Ms. Margaret Murray Dupont of Lafayette, Calif., and Dr. Katherine Murray Leisure of Plymouth, and 18 grandchildren.