Fascinating facts about Charles
Richard Drew inventor of the Blood Bank in 1940..
AT A GLANCE:
The American Red Cross blood program of today is a direct
result of the work of medical pioneer Dr. Charles Drew, beginning in
1940 and throughout World War II. Dr. Drew was instrumental in
developing blood plasma processing, storage and transfusion therapy. His
groundbreaking work in the large-scale production of human plasma
was eventually used by the U.S. Army and the American Red Cross as the
basis for blood banks..
WHERE TO FIND
HOW IT WORKS
DID YOU KNOW?
1904,in Washington, D.C.
1950 while traveling in rural North Carolina.
||noun / blood plasma
||A place, usually a
separate division of a hospital laboratory, in which blood is
collected from donors, typed, and often separated into several
components for future transfusion to recipients. The American Red
Cross operates the largest blood bank in the U.S.
1904 Charles Drew born on June 3, in Washington D.C.
1939 Drew married Minnie Lenore Robbins, and they had four children
1940 Completes his doctoral thesis, titled "Banked Blood: A Study in
1940 Drew was appointed medical supervisor of the "Plasma for Britain"
1941 Drew was named director of the newly formed Red Cross Blood Bank .
1950 Drew died on April 1, in an auto accident while traveling to a
CAPS: Drew, Charles Drew, Charles Richard Drew, Dr. John Scudder,
American Red Cross,
ARY, blood bank, blood plasma, dried blood, blood transfusion,
SIP, history, biography, inventor, invention, story, facts.
Richard Drew was the first person to develop the blood bank. His introduction
of a system for the storing of blood plasma revolutionized the medical profession. Drew
first utilized his system on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific during World War
II. He organized the world's first blood bank project in 1940 - Blood for Britain. He also
established the American Red Cross Blood Bank, of which he was the first director.
Drew was born in Washington, D.C. June 3, 1904 to Richard and Nora Drew, and was the
oldest of five children. In his youth he
seemed headed for a career in athletics and the coaching field rather than
for medicine, starring as a four letter man in Dunbar High School,
Washington. He went on to study at Amherst College, where he was a star
athlete, all-American half-back and captain of his Amherst College football
After graduation, Charles Drew was a coach and a biology and chemistry
instructor at Morgan State College, Baltimore, Maryland. But a turning point
in his life was at hand. It had become his ambition to enter the field of
medicine. He resigned his job at Morgan State and went to Montreal, Canada,
where he enrolled in McGill University's Medical School. There he was
granted two fellowships and was awarded his doctorate of medicine and master
of surgery degrees.
For two years following graduation, Dr. Drew was an intern and resident in
Montreal hospitals. In 1935, he returned to the United States to accept an
appointment as instructor in pathology at the College of Medicine of Howard
University in Washington, D.C. During the next two years, he advanced to
become assistant professor of surgery.
Dr. Drew showed such promise in his work at Howard University that in 1938,
at a time when war clouds were gathering over Europe, he was recommended for
one of the Rockefeller fellowships at Columbia aimed at promoting advanced
training in all fields of medicine. It was through this fellow ship that he
met Dr. John Scudder and began study under him.
Dr. Drew was married in 1939 to Minnie Lenore Robbins, and they
had four children, Bebe Roberta, Charlene Rosella, Rhea Sylvia, and Charles
Richard, Jr. Shortly after, Dr. Drew earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Columbia University
in 1940, with a 200 page doctoral thesis under the title "Banked Blood: A Study in
Drew received an urgent cablegram from a former teacher, who had returned to England. The cable requested 5,000
glass containers of
dried plasma for transfusions, plus the same amount three weeks later. A
large project was started in August 1940 to collect blood in New York City
hospitals for the export of plasma to Britain. Dr. Drew was appointed
medical supervisor of the "Plasma for Britain" project. His notable
contribution at this time was to transform the test tube methods of many
blood researchers, including himself, into the first successful mass
By this time it had become apparent that America probably would be drawn
into the war. Military authorities in the United States were concerned with
the need for a stockpile of blood reserves if hostilities should begin. Dr.
Drew had emerged as a leading authority on mass transfusion and processing
After discussions with medical leaders and the American Red Cross, the
government asked the Red Cross to establish a pilot program similar to the
Plasma for Britain Project but on a smaller scale. Charles Drew was named
director of the Red Cross Blood Bank and assistant director of the National
Research Council, in charge of blood collection for the United States Army
and Navy. The pilot center was set
up through the Red Cross chapter in New York City and began operation in
In 1941, Dr. Drew returned to Howard University, where he gained new
distinction, particularly in the training of young surgeons. He had spent a
total of seven months in the two blood projects, yet in this very brief but
productive period of his professional life, he made an outstanding
contribution to what was to become a highly successful World War II blood
After Dr. Drew's return to Howard, he was appointed to several scientific
committees and received honorary degrees from Virginia State and Amherst
Colleges in 1945 and 1947. He was one of the first of his race to be
selected for membership on the American Board of Surgery. He also received
the Spingarn Medal of the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People in 1944 for his outstanding contribution to human welfare.
The experience gained through Dr. Drew's efforts at the
Red Cross New York center
proved invaluable, and during World War II, 35 blood bank centers were in
operation. By war's end, millions of donations had been received by
the Red Cross, donations that made possible the saving of thousands of lives
of wounded U.S. servicemen lives that would have been lost in earlier wars
when blood therapy was unknown.
Mankind suffered a great loss in 1950 when, at the age of 45, Dr. Drew
was killed in an automobile accident while driving to a scientific
conference. His pioneering medical work has endured. How many lives have been saved
because of his genius at turning basic biological research into practical
production methods is impossible to determine. But it is a certainty that
mankind owes a debt of gratitude to Charles Richard Drew.
Inventors, A Class Act from The
Great Idea Finder
from The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Dr. Charles Drew: Blood Bank Innovator
by Anne E. Schraff / Library Binding: 112 pages / Enslow Publishers
A biography of the pioneering African American doctor famous for his work
with blood plasma.
by Robyn Lonesome, Nathan Huggins / Library
Binding - 109 pages / Chelsea House Pub (1990)
A biography of the surgeon who conducted research on the properties and
preservation of blood plasma and was a leader in establishing blood banks.
Charles Drew: Pioneer of Blood Plasma
by Linda Trice / Paperback: 121 pages / McGraw-Hill Trade; ; (July 11, 2000)
The inspiring true story of how the founder of America's Blood Banks paved the way for minorities
Dr. Charles Drew, Medical Pioneer
by Susan Whitehurst / School & Library Binding: 40 pages / Childs World;
Provides a brief overview of the life and career of African-American
doctor Charles Drew. Well-designed, the layouts are clean and
uncluttered; the bordered sepia-toned photographs are of above-average
One Blood: The Death and Resurrection of Charles R. Drew
by Spencie Love, John Hope Franklin / Paperback - 400 pages / Univ of North Carolina Press
This wonderful book not only includes accurate, scholarly historical research, it tells a
gripping story of two fine black families and their experience with health care for
African-Americans in our society.
International Red Cross
by Ralf Perkins / Paperback: 32 pages / Franklin Watts (August 2000)
The Red Cross began in the mid-1800s, when one man told the world about the
brutality of war.
ON THE WEB:
The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences at Princton University.
Black History Month - Biography
Charles R. Drew (1904-1950). Surgeon and blood researcher
Drew has been considered one of the most honored and respected figures in the
medical field and his development of the blood plasma bank has given a second chance of
life to millions.
Red Cross History
Dr. Drew was instrumental in developing blood plasma processing and transfusion
therapy, and his work with the Red Cross blood program during World War II laid the
foundation for modern day blood banking. The Charles Drew Institute is the centerpiece of
the Red Cross biomedical training system.
Gold - Innovators and Pioneers Series
Charles R. Drew was a renowned surgeon, teacher, and researcher. He was responsible
for founding two of the world's largest blood banks. From the PBS Red Gold
epic stroy of blood series.
Charles R. Drew University
The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science at
Los Angeles, California.
The Charles Drew Pre-Med
Founded in 1992, the Charles Drew Pre-Med Society of Amherst College was
established as a support group for minority students who are interested
in pursuing a medical career. However, in its current manifestation, the
Society's membership has been extended to all Amherst College students
who wish to pursue a career in medicine.
In 1940, Dr. Drew was put in charge of a transfusion program for people in
Britain wounded in World War II. Since British cities were being bombed
daily for much of the war, there were many people who were badly wounded and
in need of a transfusion. Article by Sharon Fabian for Education
WHERE TO FIND:
From its beginning, the
American Red Cross has formed a community of service, of generous, strong
and decent people bound by beliefs beyond themselves. The honor, spirit and
resources of the American people comes forth with neighbors helping
neighbors in need - during earthquakes, floods, fires, storms - and also for
the deeply personal and often quiet disasters that require a gift of blood.
WORDS OF WISDOM:
"Dr. Drew was naturally great a
keen intellect coupled with a retentive memory in a disciplined body,
governed by a biological clock of untold energy. A personality altogether
charming, flavored with mirth and wit, stamped him as my most brilliant
pupil. He had a flare for organization and attention to detail; he was a
physician who insisted upon adequate control in his experiments. These were
the hallmarks of a budding scientist." - Professor John Scudder,
about his student Charles Drew
"All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of
salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in
our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we
go back to the sea -- whether it is to sail or to watch it -- we are going
back from whence we came. " - John F. Kennedy
HOW IT WORKS:
In the late 1930's it had only recently been discovered that people had
different blood types -- A, B, AB, or O. A transfusion of the right type of
blood could save a person's life. However, blood was perishable; it would
only keep for about a week. Drew found a way to store blood much longer by
using only the part of the blood called plasma. The use of dried plasma
later made transfusions even more widely available.
DID YOU KNOW?:
- On May 21, 1881, Clara Barton founded
the American Red Cross organization.
- A 70's television show M*A*S*H episode
S2E09, "Dear Dad...Three," Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre
explain to a soldier who doesn't want "colored blood" the history of
blood plasma, and use the life and death of Charles Drew as an example
to sway his views on race.
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Sources in BOLD Type.
page revised January 30, 2007.
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