World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Charles Drew

This article is about the medical researcher. For the politician and army officer, see Charles S. Drew. For the ship, see USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE-10).
Charles Richard Drew
Charles Richard Drew
Born (1904-06-03)June 3, 1904
Washington, D.C., USA
Died April 1, 1950(1950-04-01) (aged 45)
Burlington, North Carolina, USA
Nationality United States
Fields General Surgery
Institutions Freedman's Hospital
Morgan State University
Montreal General Hospital
Howard University
Alma mater Amherst College, McGill University, Columbia University
Doctoral advisor John Beattie
Known for Blood banking; blood transfusions
Notable awards Spingarn Medal

Charles Richard Drew (June 3, 1904 – April 1, 1950) was an American physician, surgeon, and medical researcher. He researched in the field of blood transfusions, developing improved techniques for blood storage, and applied his expert knowledge to developing large-scale blood banks early in World War II. This allowed medics to save thousands of lives of the Allied forces.[1] The research and development aspect of his blood storage work is disputed.[2] As the most prominent African-American in the field, Drew protested against the practice of racial segregation in the donation of blood, as it lacked scientific foundation, an action which cost him his job.

Early years

Drew was born in 1904 into an African-American middle-class family in Washington, D.C.. His father, Richard, was a carpet layer[3] and his mother, Nora Burrell, was a teacher. Drew and his siblings grew up in DC's Foggy Bottom neighborhood[4] and he graduated from Dunbar High School in 1922.[5] Drew won an athletics scholarship to Amherst College in Massachusetts[6] from where he graduated in 1926.[7] An outstanding athlete at Amherst,[8] Drew also joined Omega Psi Phi fraternity.[9] He attended medical school at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, receiving his M.D. in 1933 as well as a Master of Surgery degree,[7] and ranked 2nd in his class of 127 students.[7] A few years later, Drew did graduate work at Columbia University, where he earned his Doctor of Medical Science degree, becoming the first African American to do so.[7]

Academic career

In 1941, Drew's distinction in his profession was recognized when he became the first black surgeon selected to serve as an examiner on the American Board of Surgery.[10] Drew had a lengthy research and teaching career and became a chief surgeon.

Blood Plasma for Great Britain Project

In late 1940, before the US entered World War II and just after earning his doctorate, Drew was recruited by John Scudder to help set up and administer an early prototype program for blood storage and preservation. He was to collect, test, and transport large quantities of blood plasma for distribution in Great Britain.[11] Drew went to New York to direct the United States' Blood for Britain project. The Blood for Britain project was a project to aid British soldiers and civilians by giving US blood to Great Britain.

Drew created a central location for the blood collection process where donors could go to give blood. He made sure all blood plasma was tested before it was shipped out. He ensured that only skilled personnel handled blood plasma to avoid the possibility of contamination. The Blood for Britain program operated successfully for five months, with total collections of almost 15,000 people donating blood, and with over 5,500 vials of blood plasma.[11] As a result, the Blood Transfusion Betterment Association applauded Drew for his work. Out of his work came the American Red Cross Blood Bank.


From 1939, Drew attended the annual free clinic at the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama. For the 1950 Tuskegee clinic, Drew and three other black physicians decided to drive rather than fly. Drew was driving around 8 a.m. on April 1. Still fatigued from spending the night before in the operating theater, Drew lost control of the vehicle. After careening into a field, the car somersaulted three times. The three other physicians suffered minor injuries. Drew was trapped with serious wounds; his foot had become wedged beneath the brake pedal. When reached by emergency technicians, Drew was in shock and barely alive due to severe leg injuries. Drew was taken to Alamance General Hospital in Burlington, North Carolina. He was pronounced dead a half hour after he first received medical attention. Drew's funeral was held on April 5, 1950, at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC.


For many years, a false rumor has persisted that Charles Drew died because white doctors refused to give him a blood transfusion. This urban legend invokes the irony of a doctor who researched and improved the storage of blood and transfusion dying because the very methods he improved were withheld from him because of his race. This rumor is also repeated on the hit TV show "M*A*S*H" when "Hawkeye" Pierce lectures a racist soldier who has been wounded and requests that he not receive the blood of a black person. [1]

Personal life

In 1939, Drew married Minnie Lenore Robbins, a professor of home economics at Spelman College whom he had met earlier that year.[12] They had three daughters and a son.[4] His daughter Charlene Drew Jarvis was the president of Southeastern University from 1996 until 2009.[13][14]


Numerous schools and health-related facilities, as well as other institutions, have been named in honor of Dr. Drew.

Medical and higher education

K-12 schools


Further reading

  • Schraff, Anne E. (2003) Dr. Charles Drew: Blood Bank Innovator, Enslow, ISBN 0-7660-2117-3
  • Love, Spencie (1996) One Blood: The Death and Resurrection of Charles R. Drew, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, (1997 reprint) ISBN 0-8078-4682-1
  • Wynes, Charles E. (1988) Charles Richard Drew: The Man and the Myth, University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0-252-01551-7
  • Organ, Claude H., editor, ( 1987 ) A Century of Black Surgeons: The USA Experience, Transcript Press, ISBN 0-9617380-0-6 Vol. I, Asa G. Yancey, Sr., Chapter 2: The Life Of Charles R. Drew, MD

External links

Biography portal
  • SBAS Charles Drew - Black American Medical Pioneer
  • "Biography of Charles R. Drew", Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
  • "Charles R. Drew Papers", online collection by the National Library of Medicine
  • "Charles R. Drew", The Straight Dope
  • Charles Drew, Florida State University
  • Charles Drew - The Black Inventor, Online Museum

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.