Kenneth M. Brinkhous

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

May 29, 1908 - December 11, 2000


Election Year: 1972
Scientific Discipline: Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology
Membership Type: Member

Kenneth M. Brinkhous discovered that hemophiliacs couldn’t produce a blood-clotting factor he named the antihemophilic factor (now referred to as Factor VIII).  He found that hemophilia could be controlled by replacing Factor VIII through blood plasma, which became the first effective treatment for hemophilia.  Brinkhous purified and concentrated Factor VIII, which was then commercially distributed, establishing the basis for home treatment of hemophilia. Brinkhous was the first to explain the genetics of hemophilia transmission, demonstrating that although it was typically a male affliction, females were carriers for the disease.  He also created the partial thromboplastin test, a rapid scan to detect clotting disorders and the two-stage prothrombin test, which led to the purification of thrombin and prothrombin and provided topical thrombin for local hemostasis.  Furthermore, Brinkhous contributed to the understanding of von Willebrand’s Disease, the effects of snake venom on blood, and the blood clotting responsible for causing strokes and heart attacks.  

Brinkhous attended the University of Iowa, receiving his B.A. degree in chemistry in 1929 and his M.D. degree in 1932.  He became an instructor of pathology in 1933 and associate professor in 1945.  From 1941 to 1945, Brinkhous served in the United States Army, achieving the rank of colonel by the end of the war.  He left Iowa in 1946 to accept a position as an associate professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC).  He was the professor and chairman of pathology for UNC from 1946 to 1973, and he was appointed Alumni Distinguished Professor of Pathology in 1961.  Brinkhous was affiliated with a long list of organizations that included the American Medical Association (president from 1955 to 1956), the Universities Associated for Research and Education in Pathology (president in 1964), the American Society for Experimental Pathology (president from 1965 to 1966), the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (president from 1966 to 1967), and the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists (president from 1973 to 1974).  He was the recipient of the Ward Burdick Award from the American Society of Clinical Pathologists in 1941 and 1963, the Murray Thelin Award from the National Hemophilia Foundation in 1972, and among several others, the Gold-Headed Cane Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathologists in 1981.   

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