Dickinson Richards '13 *
Dickinson Richards '13 *

Dickinson Woodruff Richards Jr. '13*

Profession: Physician, physiologist, and Nobel Prize-winner

Field: Medicine

Dickinson Woodruff Richards Jr. '13 was a physician and physiologist, and a 1956 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

A two-year student at Hotchkiss, Richards was a member of the St. Luke's Society, editor of the Record, a member of the track team and the Mischianza Board. He was graduated from Hotchkiss and matriculated at Yale University, where he studied English and Greek, graduating in 1917, a member of Sigma Xi. Richards graduated from both Hotchkiss and Yale at the top of his class. After being named number one in his Yale freshman class, Richards received a letter from Hotchkiss Headmaster Dr. Buehler announcing a "Holiday" in his honor. He wrote back, "That is the best thing I have to look forward to during the coming college year. For it does make me somewhat self-satisfied to give the school a little pleasure in return for all that I have received from it during the years."

Joining the U.S. Army in 1917, Richards became an artillery instructor, and later on, an artillery officer stationed in France. After two years of service in World War I, he entered Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, graduating in 1922 with his M.A. in physiology and in 1923 with his M.D. Again, he was a top member of his class and was elected to the honorary fraternity of Alpha Omega Alpha, the equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa, but awarded to a much smaller percentage of the class. Richards interned at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York, joining the Department of Medicine as a teacher and as a Research Fellow. In 1927, he went to England for a second Research Fellowship at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, under Sir Henry Dale, on the control of circulation in the liver.

In 1928, Richards returned to the Presbyterian Hospital and the College of Physicians and Surgeons and began his research on pulmonary and circulatory physiology, working under the direction of Professor Lawrence Henderson of Harvard. He began collaborations with André Cournand in 1931 at Bellevue Hospital, New York, working on pulmonary function. They initially focused their research on methods to study this in patients with pulmonary disease, and by 1940 their work had resulted in the development of a technique for catheterization of the heart. Over the next 15 years, they concentrated their studies on traumatic shock, the diagnosis of congenital heart diseases, the physiology of heart failure, measurement of actions of cardiac drugs, and various forms of dysfunction in chronic, cardiac, and pulmonary diseases and their treatment. Dickinson Richards, André Cournand, and Werner Forssmann were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1956.

Richards was appointed Professor of Medicine at Columbia University and Visiting Physician and Director of the First (Columbia) Division of Bellevue Hospital in 1945, where he moved his laboratory. In 1947, he became Lambert Professor of Medicine and Chief of the First Medical Division at Bellevue. While conducting his research and teaching, he contributed numerous articles to various medical journals and lectured in the U.S. and in Europe. Despite his interests in research and teaching, he remained above all else a physician.

Richards served as President of the Association of American Physicians, and as a member of the American College of Physicians, The American Society of Clinical Investigation, and the American Clinical and Climatological Association. He was Editor of The American Review of Tuberculosis and on the Editorial Boards of Medicine and Circulation, and during his career he also served as an advisor to Merck Sharp and Dohme Company. Richards received many honors in addition to the Nobel Prize, including the John Phillips Memorial Award of the American College of Physicians in 1960, the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 1963, the Trudeau Medal in 1968, and the Kober Medal of the Association of American Physicians in 1970. In an address to the Association of American Physicians, as its President, Richards quoted Hippocrates, "It is necessary for the physician to provide not only the needed treatment, but to provide for the sick man himself, and for those beside him, and to provide for his outside affairs."

Richards was The Hotchkiss School Alumni Award winner in 1955, and served the School as a Trustee from 1936 to 1960, and then as Trustee Emeritus. He retired from Bellevue and Columbia in 1961 and died in Lakeville, Connecticut in 1973.

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