LEMELSON-MIT PROGRAM PRESENTS LIFETIME
AWARD TO BIOMEDICAL INDUSTRY PIONEER
William P. Murphy, Jr. Used his Engineering
Skills and Medical Expertise to Improve Lives through Invention
Boston, MA, April 24, 2003—More than 60 years ago,
Dr. William P. Murphy, Jr. envisioned engineering as a transforming
force in the advancement of medicine. Translating this vision into
practice, Murphy has made outstanding contributions in advancing
medical technology and diagnostic instruments, for which he is being
awarded the ninth annual Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award
for invention and innovation, now a $100,000 cash prize.
A pioneer in the application of engineering to medicine, Murphy,
79, stands as one of the founding fathers of the biomedical industry.
The holder of 17 patents, his creations range from the first disposable
medical procedural trays and blood bags, to the first physiologic
pacemaker and hollow fiber artificial kidney. According to Murphy,
"Medicine is a great big world of opportunity, with so much
to be known and so much to be done. It's like a candy store."
CREATING INDUSTRY STANDARDS
Murphy has created a number of medical devices that have become
the standard for the industry. Among his first patented inventions
was the disposable medical procedural tray (1961), a revolutionary
concept that has played a significant role in reducing cross contamination
in invasive hospital procedures. Previously, medical trays were
reused because they were costly, but this resulted in damage to
instruments and incomplete sterilization of the trays, which had
harmful effects on the patients. Murphy developed inexpensive trays
that contain essential surgical equipment and drugs and are discarded
after one use. His trays are found in most hospitals today.
In collaboration with Dr. Carl Walter, Murphy developed a second
standard for the medical industry—plastic blood transfusion
bags that prevent air exposure to preserve red blood cells and proteins.
The transfusion bags were first used during the Korean War when
the U.S. Army employed Murphy as a blood transfusion consultant.
He was sent to the front lines, where he took the first units of
blood in bags and conducted countless transfusions on wounded men.
A third invention that has since become an industry standard was
introduced by Murphy in the 1960s. He and his colleagues developed
the first motor-driven, high-pressure angiographic injectors, which
are used for producing a visual angiogram that reveals the extent
and severity of blockages in select vessels in the body. Several
years later, he worked with Robert Stevens to introduce the first
disposable vascular selective catheters, which have dramatically
advanced selective coronary and cerebral angiography. These catheters
are used in conjunction with angiographic injectors to produce a
visual angiogram of a vein or artery.
"Dr. Murphy's dedication to the advancement of engineered medical
devices and instruments has been legendary among invasive cardiologists,
cardiac surgeons, nephrologists and neurosurgeons…" said Dr.
Jeremy Ruskin in a letter of recommendation for the Lemelson-MIT
Lifetime Achievement Award. "…He has inspired both physicians
and engineers to reach for the highest standards in serving the
patients. For these reasons, I believe Dr. William P. Murphy, Jr.
is an ideal and highly deserving candidate for the Lemelson-MIT
Lifetime Achievement Award."
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COMBINING MEDICINE AND MACHINERY
Murphy developed an interest in medicine at a young age, surrounded
by renowned medical practitioners, including his mother—a
dentist—and his father—winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize
in medicine. His passion for medicine rivaled an affinity for quality
machinery, a combination that led to many successful medical devices.
After practicing medicine for a short time, Murphy founded his
first company, Medical Development Corporation, in 1957 in his garage.
In 1959, the company evolved into Cordis Corporation, which focused
on developing medical instrumentation. At Cordis, Murphy and his
engineering staff invented the first physiologic cardiac pacemaker
(1970s) that operated by responding to the heart's rhythms rather
than at a fixed rate. This set the stage for Cordis to become a
successful pacemaker manufacturer, establishing the first non-invasively
programmable pacers (1971) and DDD (dual chamber demand) pacers
At Cordis, Murphy pursued dialysis research, which he had first
begun as a member of the first active dialysis team working at Peter
Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. Murphy was inspired to adapt the
hollow fibers being produced by Dow Corporation to create a proficient
artificial kidney, since existing devices were inefficient and clumsy
to use. With his associates, he created integral hollow fiber kidneys
(1980) that mimic the natural kidney and allow for an increased
surface to volume ratio, which significantly improved dialysis efficiency.
His system is utilized extensively throughout the world.
In addition to Cordis, Murphy started Small Parts, Inc. in 1963,
a Miami-based company that quickly supplies small and large quantities
of high quality materials and tools to engineers in a range of industries.
In 1986, Murphy started Hyperion, Inc.—also based in Miami—which
designs, manufactures and markets automated immunoassay systems
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EDUCATION IS THE KEY
As a strong advocate of education, Murphy encourages his peers
and employees to continuously expand their knowledge. In order to
provide an interest in engineering education to young people, he
and friend Dean Kamen (2002 winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT
Prize) founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science
and Technology), a non-profit organization that aims to inspire
an appreciation of science, technology and engineering in young
"Dr. Murphy is fully deserving of the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement
Award not only for his achievements in medical technology, but also
for his commitment to education," said Merton Flemings, Director
of the Lemelson-MIT Program. "He exemplifies the mission of our
Program by helping to promote invention and innovation among young
Murphy graduated from Harvard University (1946) with a major in
pre-medicine and a minor in architecture. He received his M.D. from
the University of Illinois School of Medicine and also studied mechanical
engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He helped
to establish several professional organizations, and has co-authored
nearly 30 medical publications. Often recognized for his many achievements,
he has received countless awards including the Distinguished Service
Award of the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology
(1985), American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering
Founding Fellow (1993) and the FIRST Founder's Award (2000).
Other recipients of the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award
include such distinguished inventors as Ruth Rogan Benerito, who
invented easy-care cotton; Raymond Damadian, who invented the first
Magnetic Resonance (MR) Scanning Machine; Al Gross, wireless pioneer
who invented the walkie-talkie and pager; and Stephanie Kwolek,
the inventor of Kevlar® (used in a variety of products from
bullet-proof vests to airplanes).
Murphy will be formally presented with the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT
Lifetime Achievement Award the evening of Thursday, April 24, 2003
at a special invitation-only ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library
and Museum in Boston.
Click here for more information on Dr. Murphy.
ABOUT THE LEMELSON-MIT PROGRAM
Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge,
MA, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late
independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The
Program's mission is to raise the stature of inventors and innovators
and to foster invention and innovation among young people. It accomplishes
this by celebrating inventor/innovator role models through outreach
activities and annual awards, including the world's largest for
invention—the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Lemelson-MIT
Program is funded by The Lemelson Foundation, which supports other
invention initiatives at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American
History, Hampshire College, the National Collegiate Inventors and
Innovators Alliance and the University of Nevada, Reno.
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