Tens of thousands of people alive today owe their lives to techniques pioneered by Dr. Joseph Murray, who has died at the age of 93 in the same Boston hospital where he carried out the world's first successful human organ transplant. Murray made history in 1954 when he transplanted a kidney from a healthy 23-year-old man into his ailing identical twin, the New York Times reports. Five years later, he made the first successful transplant into a nonidentical recipient, and in 1962 he carried out the first successful transplant using a kidney from a cadaver.
Murray served in the Army Medical Corps in World War II, where his experiences treating badly burned soldiers led to his lifelong work in transplantation and facial reconstruction. In the early '50s, organ transplantation was considered a "fringe project" and he was urged to focus on something more realistic, he wrote in his 2001 autobiography Surgery of the Soul. Before the first successful transplant, "we were criticized for playing God," and he only went ahead with the surgery after consulting with clergy from several denominations, he recalled. Murray, who is survived by his wife and six children, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1990. (Read more surgeon stories.)