2003 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
|Photo by Raul Rubiera
Combining a passion for mechanical engineering with his expertise
in medicine, William Murphy, Jr. has revolutionized the biomedical
industry. His inventions include significant improvements on the
early cardiac pacemakers, artificial kidneys, cardiac catheters
and disposable medical trays.
Murphy collaborated with Dr. Carl Walter on the development of
a flexible sealed blood bag for the transfusion of whole blood.
Its first use was during the Korean War, where Murphy took the device
to the battlefields and created a simple system for rapid, air-free
Experience in the Korean War convinced Murphy that reuse of medical
instruments was counter-productive, since they were often damaged
or inadequately sterilized. He therefore designed a series of inexpensive
medical trays equipped with drugs and sterilized tools that could
be discarded after use, reducing cross-contamination of patients.
In the 1960s, Murphy directed engineers at his company, Cordis,
to develop the first motor-driven high-pressure angiography injectors.
Later, working with Robert Stevens, the company produced the first
torque-controlled selective and disposable vascular diagnostic catheters.
Murphy, along with Cordis engineers, developed the first physiologic
cardiac pacemaker (in the 1970s), which operated by responding to
the heart's rhythms instead of at a fixed-rate. A later variation
could be programmed non-invasively and led to the first DDD (dual
chamber demand) pacemaker in the 1980s.
Murphy also guided the engineering of a new and efficient hemodializer
(artificial kidney). This system, which mimics the natural kidney,
allows for an increased surface to volume ratio, thus improving
dialysis efficiency. Murphy's first company, Medical Development
Corporation, was founded in his garage in 1957, and evolved into
Cordis Corporation in 1959 (now a Johnson & Johnson company).
He started Small Parts, Inc. in 1963 to quickly supply small batches
of materials to engineers, and is currently the CEO there. From
1986-2003, he also guided Hyperion, Inc., a manufacturer of automated
immunoassay systems and reagents.
The son of a Nobel laureate in medicine, Murphy first studied at
Harvard College and later received his M.D. from the University
of Illinois School of Medicine. Afterward, he studied mechanical
engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1989,
he helped Dean Kamen establish the Foundation for Inspiration and
Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). His many accolades
include the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering
Founding Fellow (1993) and the FIRST Founder's Award (2000).
Small Parts Inc.