Medicine: 1934

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

1) Minot, George Richards pronounced MY nuht, (1885-1950), an American physician, was one of the world's greatest authorities on the functions of blood and on blood diseases. In 1926, he announced the liver treatment for pernicious anemia patients. Minot and his co-worker, the American physician William P. Murphy, showed that when the patients were treated with a diet containing a large amount of liver, the anemia disappeared and the red blood count returned to normal. The discovery opened a new era for patients with anemia, which was a disease that had always been fatal. Minot and Murphy received the 1934 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for this research. They shared the prize with American physician George H. Whipple, who had made the same discovery.

Minot wrote many articles on blood and its disorders. He also wrote about dietary deficiency. He was coauthor of Pathological Physiology and Clinical Description of the Anemias (1936).

Minot was born in Boston, Mass. He received his medical degree from Harvard University in 1912. He was associated with Massachusetts General Hospital from 1918 to 1923. From 1928 to 1948, Minot was professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Boston City Hospital's Thorndike Memorial Laboratory.

Contributor: Daniel J. Kevles, Ph.D., Professor of Humanities, California Institute of Technology.

2) Murphy, William Parry (1892-1987), an American physician, helped develop the first successful treatment for a disease called pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia had always been fatal until Murphy and his colleague George R. Minot discovered that feeding patients large quantities of liver caused the anemia to disappear. Murphy and Minot shared the 1934 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with George H. Whipple, an American medical researcher whose research laid the groundwork for the liver treatment.

Murphy was born in Stoughton, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 1914 and taught high school mathematics and physics for two years in Oregon before entering the University of Oregon Medical School. He later received a fellowship to Harvard Medical School in Boston, where he received an M.D. degree in 1922.

Murphy interned at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. He returned to Boston to serve his residency at Peter Bent Brigham (now Brigham and Women's) Hospital, where he met Minot. Minot had treated pernicious anemia patients at another Boston hospital with a liver-rich diet and asked Murphy to do the same at the Brigham. The two doctors announced the results of their study in 1926.

Murphy became Minot's partner in a private medical practice in Boston. He also practiced medicine at the Brigham and taught at Harvard Medical School until he retired in 1958.

3) Whipple, George Hoyt (1878-1976), was an American physician and medical researcher who discovered the relationship between diet and the formation of red blood cells. His discovery cast new light on anemia, a weakened condition that people develop when their red blood cells lack normal hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the substance that makes blood red and that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues.

Whipple experimented on dogs with anemia. When he fed the animals liver, their hemoglobin production increased and their anemia disappeared. This research led to use of a diet rich in liver to treat human patients with pernicious anemia, a disease that had always been fatal. American physicians George R. Minot and William P. Murphy developed the liver treatment in 1926. For their discoveries, Whipple, Minot, and Murphy received the 1934 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Whipple was born in Ashland, New Hampshire. He graduated from Yale University in 1900, received an M.D. degree from the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in 1905, and joined the staff of Johns Hopkins. In 1914, he became director of the Hooper Foundation for Medical Research at the University of California at San Francisco. From 1921 to 1953, Whipple served as dean of medicine at the University of Rochester in New York. There he continued to work on blood and especially on thalassemia, a hereditary form of anemia caused by a defect in the hemoglobin molecule.


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