Edward Donnall Thomas

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 12 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7624
  1. Barbara Kermode-Scott
  1. kermodeb{at}

Nobel laureate, known as the father of bone marrow transplantation

Susie Fitzhugh, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre

US Nobel laureate Edward Donnall Thomas was born in Mart, Texas, the only child of Edward E Thomas, a general practitioner, and Angie Hill Donnall, a teacher. Don (as he was known to family and friends) grew up in Prairie Hill in rural Texas; it was here he learned a love of the outdoors, including hunting and fishing. By the time Don Thomas died in Seattle at age 92 on 20 October 2012, this country boy had gained recognition worldwide for his pioneering work in stem cell research and bone marrow transplantation. He had helped save the lives of tens of thousands of people with otherwise fatal diseases (including leukaemia, lymphoma, thalassaemia, and aplastic anaemia). After Thomas died, patients and colleagues from around the world paid tribute to this quiet, modest, kindly, and wise doctor. Many patients loved him as a hero because he gave them the gift of life. His colleagues and students revered the brilliant researcher and teacher who had changed medical practice.

Firsts in transplantation

In 1956, Thomas performed the first successful syngeneic bone marrow transplant between …

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