First Blood Banker

Charles R. Drew, an African-American surgeon whose research on the storage and shipment of blood plasma revolutionized blood banking, was born in Washington, D.C., on 3 June 1904. As late as the 1930s, blood could be stored for only a few days before spoiling. While Drew was a Ph.D. student at Columbia University in 1939, he developed a method for separating blood into cells and plasma. Plasma can be used for many of the same purposes as whole blood, but it lasts longer and does not require matching blood types between donors and recipients.

As medical supervisor of the Blood for Britain campaign during World War II, Drew initiated the use of bloodmobiles--trucks equipped with refrigerators--and he is credited with saving hundreds of British lives. Drew died in a car accident on 1 April 1950. The American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C., was renamed in his honor as the Charles R. Drew Blood Center.

[Source: Emily McMurray, Ed., Notable Twentieth Century Scientists (Gale Research Inc., ITP, 1995).]

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