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E. Donnall Thomas

E. Donnall ThomasAKA Edward Donnall Thomas

Born: 15-Mar-1920
Birthplace: Mart, TX
Died: 20-Oct-2012
Location of death: Seattle, WA
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Agnostic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Doctor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Bone marrow transplants

Military service: US Army (1948-50)

Bone marrow is a sponge-like clump of cells that lines long bone cavities, producing white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets crucial to the body's blood and immune systems. E. Donnall Thomas performed the first bone marrow transplant in 1956, rescuing a patient from advancing leukemia by providing fresh, healthy bone marrow. Due to the body's rejection of transplanted tissue, however, this operation was for years available only when donor and recipient were identical twins. In 1969, after years of work on histocompatibility (tissue typing) and development of sophisticated antibiotics that inhibit transplant infections, Thomas performed the first successful marrow transplant where donor and recipient were not twins. He won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1990, sharing the honor with Joseph E. Murray, who overcame similar obstacles in pioneering kidney transplants. Coincidentally, Thomas and Murray had served their medical internships together at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital in the late 1940s.

Before Thomas's time, leukemia was an invariably fatal diagnosis. As a direct result of his work, the majority of patients with leukemia now survive the disease. In addition to its lifesaving application in leukemia, marrow transplantation is also used to combat numerous other diseases, including aplastic anemia, Hurler's syndrome and other inherited metabolic disorders, severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), sickle cell disease, and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. Thomas donated his share of the Nobel honorarium, about $350,000, to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where he worked for decades.

Father: Edward E. Thomas (physician, b. 1870)
Mother: Angie Hill Donnall Thomas (teacher)
Wife: Dorothy Martin Thomas ("Dottie", lab technician, until his death)
Son: Don Thomas (physician)
Son: Jeffrey Thomas (businessman)
Daughter: Elaine Thomas (physician)

    High School: Mart High School, Mart, TX (1937)
    University: BA, University of Texas at Austin (1941)
    University: MA, University of Texas at Austin (1943)
    Medical School: MD, Harvard Medical School (1946)
    Scholar: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1950-51)
    Teacher: Medicine, Harvard Medical School (1953-55)
    Teacher: Medicine, Columbia University (1955-63)
    Professor: Medicine, University of Washington (1963-)
    Administrator: Director of Medical Oncology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (1974-89)

    National Medal of Science 1990
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1990 (with Joseph E. Murray)
    American Association for Cancer Research
    Association of American Physicians
    American Society for Clinical Research
    American Society for Clinical Investigation
    Federation of American Scientists Board of Sponsors
    National Academy of Sciences
    National Cancer Institute
    National Research Council Research Fellowship (1950-51)
    Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine

Official Website:

Author of books:
Aplastic Anaemia (1978)
Frontiers on Bone Marrow Transplantation (1991)
Application of Basic Science to Hematopoiesis and Treatment of Disease (1994)
Bone Marrow Transplantation (1994, with Stephen J Forman and Karl G Blume)
Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation (1999, with Stephen J Forman and Karl G Blume)

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