Drew, Charles

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Drew, Charles (1904–1950), physician, surgeon, scientist, and educator.Drew was a pioneer in the field of blood plasma preservation. Born in Washington, D.C., he earned a B.A. from Amherst College in 1926, a medical certificate from Montreal's McGill University in 1933, and a doctorate in medical science from Columbia University in 1940. While studying at Columbia, he theorized that blood plasma could replace whole blood in transfusions because of its long shelflife. During the early days of World War II, Drew became project supervisor of a joint American Red Cross and Blood Transfusion Betterment Association (BTBA) program to supply war‐torn Great Britain with plasma. By January 1941, Drew's efforts proved so successful that Britain no longer needed American blood. Shortly thereafter, he briefly served as assistant director in a project supported by the Red Cross, the National Research Council, BTBA, and U.S. armed forces.

Previous historical accounts have considered Drew's resignation of his directorship in March 1941 as a protest by an African American against a Red Cross and military edict that ordered blood supplies be separated by race. Although evidence suggests that Drew voiced displeasure at the racial mandate, his departure was also shaped by the desire to pursue a surgical and teaching career at Howard University. Drew died in an automobile accident in 1950.


Charles E. Wynes , Charles Richard Drew: The Man and the Myth, 1988.
Linda O. McMurry , Charles RichardDrew, in The African American Encyclopedia, ed. Michael W. Williams, 1993.

Brian Adkins