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Hugh Roland Butt

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 03 November 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2196
  1. Ned Stafford

    Gastroenterologist whose coagulation studies paved the way for open heart surgery and organ transplantation

    With his sharp mind and commitment to medicine, Hugh Butt excelled in the examining room, at the bedside, as a teacher, and as an administrator and leader of medical organisations. With his good humour and strong health, he was also a consummate fundraiser for the Mayo Clinic and a respected coach to younger generations long after he officially retired.

    But his most enduring legacy came as a researcher early in his medical career. He was 25 years old and just two years out of medical school when he came up with a theory that led, in his own words years later, to “the first kind of miracle I had ever seen.”

    The year was 1935, and Butt, studying at the Mayo Graduate School, had read about Danish biochemist Henrik Carl Peter Dam, who had shown that chickens deprived of a dietary substance for just a few weeks began haemorrhaging and bleeding uncontrollably. Dam dubbed the substance the coagulation vitamin, shortened to vitamin K when published in a German journal (Koagulation being the German for coagulation).

    Butt theorised …

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