George Richards Minot was a famous American medical researcher. Minot pursued medicine with great passion and became interested in the study of human blood. It was his passion for this profession and his dedication that led to the phenomenal discovery —the treatment for pernicious anemia, for which he shared the 1934 Nobel Prize in medicine with William P. Murphy of Boston and with George Hoyt Whipple. Minot had a busy life, in which he was associated with several medical organizations and institutions, studying, researching and contributing towards physiology at the same time. He was appointed the 'Assistant in Medicine' in 1915, at the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital. Eventually, he moved to higher positions, both in Harvard and other renowned hospitals like Collis P. Huntington Memorial Hospital of Harvard University. Minot led an honorable life, which involved a continuous effort to contribute towards the cure of anemia and some other blood related diseases.
George Richards Minot was born on December 2, 1885, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the eldest of the three sons of Dr. James Jackson and Elizabeth Whitney Minot. His family was affluent, as his ancestors had a successful businesses and professional careers. One of his great grandfathers was the founder of Massachusetts General Hospital. Minot’s father was a physician and was also a medical teacher at the Massachusetts Hospital for many years. As a child, Minot was very delicate, needing a lot of care and nourishing food as suffered from frequent fevers. He would spend most the winters in Southern California with his parents, which gave him the opportunity come closer to nature. Two of his articles were on butterflies and were published as scientific papers in 1902. This showed his interest in natural history.
Journey to the Nobel Prize
Minot entered The Harvard Medical School on October 1, 1908. Even as a student, Minot worked at a clinic meant for outpatients, operated by Harvard. He expressed interest in the disorders of blood and he published many scientific articles on the same. After receiving his M.D. in 1912, he began internship in the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He then continued his studies as an assistant at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. He conducted several analyses on the clotting of blood, the transfusion of blood and many blood disorders. His studies also included state of blood in cases on industrial poisoning, Leukemia (blood cancer), lymphatic tissue disorders and polycythemia. But most important of all his studies was the one related to anemia, to which he devoted a lifetime. In the course of his research, he came in close association with William P. Murphy and George Hoyt Whipple. He was impressed by Whipple’s work on experimental ways of treating anemia in dogs. In 1926, Minot and Murphy came up with the treatment of pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia, then, was a fatal disease with no cure. IMinot, in association with Murphy and Whipple, came up with the treatment of anemia through the liver. All three of them were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1934.
Minot’s discovery regarding the reticulocytes or the young red blood cells was remarkable. He found that anemia was related to malfunction of the bone marrow (which produces red blood cells) of a person suffering from it, which is turn is connected with his dietary habits. Minot spent most of his time in the Collis P. Huntington Memorial Hospital in Boston, researching on the several forms of leukemia. He became an assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School in 1918. Minot was inspired by the experiments of George Hoyt Whipple on pernicious anemia, which indicated that anemia in dogs can be cured by feeding red meat, especially liver. Minot conducted a similar experiment on patients suffering from anemia. He and Dr. William P. Murphy began to feed half a pound of liver to as many the anemic patients they could. The experiment turned out to be a success. All those patients, who were persuaded to consume liver, showed dramatic signs of improvement. It was seen that their condition improved rapidly without any deteriorations.
Development of Fraction G
Minot and Murphy went ahead to submit the reports on the successful treatment of at least forty five patients suffering from pernicious anemia, at a conference of the American Medical Association in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They produced reports of successful treatment of 105 patients at a meeting in Washington, D.C., the following year. Their research did not end here. They went ahead to discover that pure liver extracts can be beneficial to the patients as they can be taken in considerably smaller doses. So, they approached Dr. Edward J. Cohn, a professor of physical chemistry at the Harvard medical school, and convinced him to work on the development of pure liver extracts. Dr. Cohn could accomplish this task by separating “Fraction G” from pure liver. It was the Eli Lilly Company which began to manufacture Fraction G. Later, in 1929, Minot and his associates found that small doses of the substance had the same effect as the large amount liver given to the patients.
On April 16, 1947, Minot underwent a severe stroke and eventually died on February 25, 1950, in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Minot is still remembered for his discovery on the therapy of anemia.
Awards And Recognitions
Minot’s research on the disorders of blood, especially pernicious anemia and the remedy to the terminal disease earned him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or medicine in 1934.