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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c113

Joseph E. Murray papers


The Joseph E. Murray papers, 1919-2011 (inclusive), are the product of Murray's activities as a plastic surgeon, transplant surgeon, laboratory director, author, and Harvard Medical School alumnus.


  • Creation: 1919-2012 (inclusive).


Language of Materials

Papers are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Access to Harvard University records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series III. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in all Series. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.

The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to consult Public Services for further information concerning retrieval of material.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


112.55 cubic feet (106 records center cartons, 12 flat oversized boxes, 5 letter size document boxes, 1 half letter size document box, 1 half legal size document box, and 1 tube)

The Joseph E. Murray papers, 1919-2011 (inclusive), are the product of Murray's activities as a plastic surgeon, transplant surgeon, laboratory director, author, and Harvard Medical School alumnus. The papers include: records from Murray's plastic surgery and transplantation work at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children's Hospital Boston, including patient records; his personal and professional correspondence; and records produced from his activities as Chairman of the Harvard Medical Alumni Fund and from reunions of the Harvard Medical School class of 1943b. Also contained in the collection are Murray's professional writings, records generated as a product of attending professional meetings and conferences, newspaper and magazine clippings, and subject files maintained by Murray. Photographs and audiovisual records can be found in series VIII and X.

The Joseph E. Murray papers consist of ten series: I. Hospital Records, II. Correspondence, III. Harvard Medical School Records, IV. American College of Surgeons Records, V. Event Records, VI. Writings, VII. Personal Records, VIII. Photographs, IX. Subject Files, Clippings and Publications and X. Audiovisual Records.

The papers are entirely in English.

Biographical Note

Joseph E. Murray (1919-2012), A.B., 1940, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts; M.D., 1943, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, transplant and plastic surgeon, received the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on organ transplantation. Between 1951 and 1985, Murray served as Director of the Surgical Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School and at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women’s Hospital), head of the plastic surgery departments at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston, and was a Harvard Medical School Professor of Surgery.

Joseph Edward Murray was born on 1 April 1919, in Milford, Massachusetts. His father Edward Murray was a lawyer and judge and his mother Mary (DePasquale) Murray was a schoolteacher. Murray graduated from Milford High School in 1936, subsequently attending the College of the Holy Cross and Harvard Medical School. After graduating in 1940 and 1943, respectively, Murray completed his internship at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (“the Brigham”) and then entered the United States Army Medical Corps in 1944. He served at Valley Forge General Hospital, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, during World War II, working with surgeon Bradford Cannon (1907-2005), and it was there, while performing skin grafts on burned soldiers, that Murray first became interested in organ transplantation. After his military service, he returned to the Brigham and completed his surgical residency (1947-1951) and plastic surgery residency at New York Hospital (now New York-Presbyterian Hospital), New York City, in 1951. Murray then returned to the Brigham in 1951 as a staff generalist and plastic surgeon.

In 1952, Murray became Director of the Surgical Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School and at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (1952-1975), based on the Harvard Medical School Quadrangle. It was there that Murray and his colleagues refined the surgical techniques for renal transplantation in dogs, which led to the development of the procedure used for humans. On 23 December 1954, Murray performed the first successful human organ transplantation, between identical twins, Ronald (donor) and Richard (recipient) Herrick, at the Brigham; in 1959, the first successful renal transplantation between non-identical twins utilizing total body x-rays to suppress the recipient’s immune system; and in 1962, the first cadaveric renal transplantation, employing the new immunosuppressant drug Azathioprine (Imuran) he had developed with Roy Yorke Calne (born 1959), George Herbert Hitchings (1905-1998), and Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999). In 1971, Murray resigned as the Chief of Transplant Surgery at the Brigham to focus on plastic surgery, serving as the Head of Plastic Surgery at both the Brigham (until 1986) and Children’s Hospital Boston (1972-1985), where he focused on craniofacial reconstruction. He served as a Professor of Surgery, and later Professor Emeritus, at Harvard Medical School from 1970 until his death.

During his career, Murray was active in professional organizations, serving as a Regent for the American College of Surgeons (1970-1979), President of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons (1965), Chair of the American Board of Plastic Surgery (1969-1970), and President of the Boston Surgical Society (1975). Murray was also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which advises the Vatican on science issues. At Harvard Medical School, he served as chairman of the Alumni Fund. Murray suffered a stroke in 1986 and though he made a full recovery, he chose to retire.

Murray married Virginia “Bobby” Link in 1945. They had six children together: three sons (J. Link, Thomas and Richard) and three daughters (Virginia, Margaret and Katherine). The family lived in Wellesley, Massachusetts and spent summers on Chappaquiddick Island, Martha’s Vineyard. On 22 November 2012, Murray suffered a major intra cerebral bleed. He died four days later, 26 November 2012, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Hospital Records, 1944-2005, undated
  2. ___A. Brigham Surgical Group Records, 1951-1990, undated
  3. ______ 1. Correspondence and Administrative Records, 1951-1990, undated
  4. ______2. Patient Records, 1950s-1980s, undated
  5. _________ a. Group 1, 1960s-1980s
  6. _________ b. Group 2, 1950s-1980s
  7. _________ c. Craniofacial, 1979-1983
  8. _________ d. Photographs, X-Rays, Slides, Notecards, 1967-1970, 1981, undated
  9. ______ 3. Appointment Books, 1957-1986
  10. ___ B. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Transplant Records, 1955-1976, undated
  11. ___ C. Valley Forge General Hospital Records, 1945-1947, 1998, 2005, undated
  12. ___D. Patient Records, Other Hospitals, 1944-1972
  13. ______ 1. Operative Notes, 1944-1971
  14. ______ 2. Massachusetts Crippled Children's Service, 1955-1972
  15. II. Correspondence, 1940-2011, undated
  16. III. Harvard Medical School Records, 1940-2011, undated
  17. ___A. Surgical Research Laboratory Records, 1940-1982, undated
  18. ______ 1. Research Records, 1940-1967
  19. ______ 2. Administrative Records, 1954-1982, undated
  20. ______ 3. Fellows Records, 1957-1972
  21. ___ B. Alumni and Reunion Records, 1963-2009, undated
  22. ___ C. Committee Records, 1970-2011
  23. IV. American College of Surgeons Records, 1967-2001
  24. V. Event Records, 1957-2010, undated
  25. VI. Writings, 1953-2006, undated
  26. VII. Personal Records, 1923-2007, undated
  27. ___ A. Nobel Prize Records, 1989-2007, undated
  28. ___ B. Correspondence and Biographical Records, 1923-2003, undated
  29. ___ C. Medals, Awards and Certificates, 1944-2001, undated
  30. VIII. Photographs, 1919-2006, undated
  31. IX. Subject Files, Clippings and Publications, 1942-2011, undated
  32. ___ A. Francis D. Moore Records, 1967-2004, undated
  33. ___ B. Subject Files, 1951-1999, undated
  34. ___ C. Clippings and Publications, 1942-2001, undated
  35. X. Audiovisual Records, 1957-2005, undated

Immediate Source of Acquisition

  1. Accession number 2012-046. Joseph E. Murray. 2011 December 06.
  2. Accession number 2005-051. Joseph E. Murray. 2005 April.
  3. Accession number 2001-054. Joseph E. Murray. 2001 June 01.

Related Papers in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

  1. Papers of Francis Daniels Moore. GA 56.
  2. Papers of Bradford Cannon. H MS c240.


Dental molds and surgical sutures were transferred to the Warren Anatomical Museum in February 2013.

Resources on Joseph Murray

  • Murray, Joseph E. Surgery of the Soul, USA: Science History Publications, 2001.

Processing Information

Processed by Bryan Sutherland, 2013 February.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the records and created a finding aid to improve access to the collection. To enhance preservation, processing staff re-housed the collection and, where necessary, photocopied documents onto acid-free paper. Duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Center for the History of Medicine were discarded. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals.

Murray, Joseph E., 1919-2012. Papers, 1919-2011 (inclusive): Finding Aid
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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