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Election Year: 1982
Scientific Discipline: Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology
Membership Type: Member
E. Donnall Thomas performed the first successful bone marrow transplant in 1969. Bone marrow, which is vital for the production of blood cells and cells that support the immune system, could only be transplanted when both individuals were identical twins. Over many years, he carefully refined his procedure by matching tissue types and using drugs that inhibit transplant infections. In 1990 he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery concerning “cell transplantation in the treatment of human disease".
Thomas earned his B.A. in 1941 and M.S. in 1943 from the University of Texas. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1946 and completed his residency at the Peter Brent Brigham Hospital. In 1950 he was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1953 to 1955 he served as an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a resident associate at the Cancer Research Foundation at the Children’s Medical Center in Boston. He was Physician-in-Chief at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital and a professor of medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University from 1955 to 1963. In 1963 he began his career at the University of Washington School of Medicine where he was the director of medical oncology.