George Richards

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(b. Boston, Massachusetts, 2 December 1885; d. Brookline, Massachusetts, 25 February 1950)


Minot was the eldest son of James Jackson Minot, a physician, and Elizabeth Whitney, from whom he inherited the inquisitiveness and industry of cultured forebears successful in Boston’s business and professional life. In 1915 Minot married Marian Linzee Weld of Milton, Massachusetts. He was an amateur naturalist, cultivator of irises, and summer sailor of the coast of Maine.

Minot received the A.B. from Harvard College in 1908 and the M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1912. He was professor of medicine at Harvard University and director of the Harvard Medical Unit at the Boston City Hospital from 1928 to 1948. His outstanding contribution to medical science was the discovery in 1926, with William P. Murphy, of the successful treatment of pernicious anemia by liver feeding, for which they shared the 1934 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, with George H. Whipple of Rochester, N. Y.

While in the private practice of medicine in Boston with an appointment as associate in medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital (1918–1923), Minot had become convinced of the inadequacy of the diets of many patients with pernicious anemia. Consequently, he was prepared to make a thorough trial of the effects of liver feeding when reported by Whipple as especially potent in preventing an experimental anemia due to chronic, periodic blood removal in dogs. In Minot’s patients a prompt increase in the number of reticulocytes (young red blood cells) objectified the repeated association observed between daily liver feeding, clinical improvement, and progressive lessening of their hitherto fatally progressive anemia. This observation led shortly to the development of therapeutic liver extracts and to research by others eventually identifying their active principle as vitamin Bl2 in 1948.

Minot’s work and that of numerous pupils during the decade after 1926 initiated a new era in clinical hematology by replacing the largely morphologic studies of the blood and of the blood-forming and blood-destroying organs with dynamic measurements of their functions. Today the use of radioisotopic labeling of the formed elements of the blood, together with biochemical and biophysical analyses, are extending this revolution in depth. Among the many significant contributions of Minot and his associates were early work on blood transfusion, blood coagulation, and blood platelets, and classical studies of the hematological effects of irradiation in chronic leukemias and lymphoid tumors. Later came successful treatment of hypochromic anemia with sufficient iron; and demonstration that hemophilia is due to lack of a globulin substance present in normal plasma.


Minot’s principal writings include “The Development of Liver Therapy in Pernicious Anaemia: A Nobel Lecture,” in Lancet (1935), 1 , 361–364.

On Minot and his work, see W. B. Castle, “The Contributions of George Richards Minot to Experimental Medicine,” in New England Journal of Medicine, 247 (1952), 585–592; and F. M. Rackemann, The Inquisitive Physician: The Life and Times of George Richards Minot, A.B., M.D., D.Sc. (Cambridge, Mass., 1956).

W.B. Castle

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George Richards Minot (mī´nət), 1885–1950, American physician and pathologist, b. Boston, M.D. Harvard, 1912. From 1928 to 1948 he was professor of medicine at Harvard and director of the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory, Boston City Hospital. He specialized in diseases of the blood, and for his research on the value of liver in treating pernicious anemia he shared with W. P. Murphy and G. H. Whipple the 1934 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

See biography by F. M. Rackemann (1956).

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Minot, George Richards (1885–1950) American physician; jointly with Murphy and Whipple, discovered the treatment of pernicious anaemia by feeding liver (1926); Nobel Prize 1934.