November 27, 2012

Mass. transplant doctor, Nobel winner dies

Dr. Joseph E. Murray performed the world's first successful kidney transplant.

Mark Pratt / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

A 2004 photo of Dr. Joseph E. Murray, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990.

AP

Murray continued to support and mentor others at Brigham and Women's Hospital after his retirement, hospital president Dr. Elizabeth Nabel said. An exhibit in the hospital's library housing his Nobel Prize, she said, is framed by his own words: "Service to society is the rent we pay for living on this planet."

She said he joined in a Veteran's Day ceremony Nov. 12 at which he was among those honored for their military service.

Murray's interest in transplants developed during his time in the Army during World War II when he was assigned to Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania while awaiting overseas duty. The hospital performed reconstructive surgery on troops who had been injured in battle.

The burn patients, who often were treated with skin grafts from other people, intrigued Murray.

"The slow rejection of the foreign skin grafts fascinated me," Murray wrote in his autobiography for the Nobel Prize ceremony. "How could the host distinguish another person's skin from his own?"

The hospital's chief of plastic surgery had performed skin grafts on civilians and noticed that the closer the donor and recipient were related, the slower the tissue was rejected. A skin graft between identical twins had taken permanently.

Murray said that was "the impetus" of his study of organ transplantation.

Murray was ever the optimist and kept on his desk a quotation, "Difficulties are opportunities," his son Rick Murray said.

"It reflects the unwavering optimism of a great man who was generous, curious, and always humble," Rick Murray said in a statement released by the hospital.

Joseph Murray is survived by his wife, Bobby, five other children and 18 grandchildren.

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