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The Boston Globe

Magazine

Perspective

The miracle of medicine

On the anniversary of a historic transplant surgery, a lesson on bridging the divide between science and religion.

EVOLUTION, BIRTH CONTROL, EMBRYONIC STEM-CELL RESEARCH, END OF LIFE: From Darwin’s time to our own, the ethical and religious questions raised by science have occupied newspaper headlines, polarized politics, and ignited family disputes. Today, American culture is as divisive as ever, and many of us have come to consider the scientific and spiritual spheres irreconcilable. But 58 years ago, a medical pioneer facing similar challenges found a way to create harmony from dissonance.

 On December 23, 1954, a plastic surgeon named Joseph E. Murray stepped into Operating Room 2 at Boston’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women’s). He was about to attempt an organ transplant, a surgery never before successful in humans.

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