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Title: Joseph E. Murray’s struggle to transplant kidneys: failure, individuality, and plastic surgery, 1950-1965
Authors: Park, Hyung Wook
Keywords: Arts and Humanities
Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
Issue Date: 2024
Source: Park, H. W. (2024). Joseph E. Murray’s struggle to transplant kidneys: failure, individuality, and plastic surgery, 1950-1965. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 79(2), 143-162.
Project: RG 74/14 
Journal: Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 
Abstract: This paper offers a historical analysis of the American plastic surgeon and Nobel laureate Joseph E. Murray’s kidney transplantation. After succeeding in the first kidney transplantation between monozygotic twins in 1954, he transplanted kidneys between genetically distinct people after X-radiation and immunosuppressants. Amid these achievements, however, Murray encountered numerous failures, which he thought were closely intertwined with each patient’s physiological and pathological individuality. As he appropriated his expertise in plastic surgery for kidney transplantation, this individuality became a major issue that he had to cope with in his efforts to avoid failures. To him, kidney transplantation could fail because of each individual’s immunological barrier or constitutional singularity that could engender unexpected complications. Although he could neither explain nor control many of these failures, I argue that his unsuccessful work and patient individuality played multiple roles in shaping his operations as a plastic surgeon. They structured the path of his surgical research, made sense of it, defended him from criticism, and formed the way that he presented the results of his work with an immunological implication. Consequently, Murray, with little scientific training, articulated an important dimension of immunological tolerance relevant to clinical settings.
ISSN: 0022-5045
DOI: 10.1093/jhmas/jrad042
Schools: School of Humanities 
Departments: History
Rights: © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the copyright holder. The Version of Record is available online at
Fulltext Permission: embargo_20260507
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:SoH Journal Articles

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