Dickinson W. Richards
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1956
Born: 30 October 1895, Orange, NJ, USA
Died: 23 February 1973, Lakeville, CT, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning heart catheterization and pathological changes in the circulatory system."
Prize share: 1/3
Dickinson Richards was born in New Jersey, the son of a lawyer. After liberal arts studies at Yale University, Richards studied medicine at Columbia University in New York, becoming a medical doctor in 1923. Following work at Presbyterian Hospital in New York and elsewhere, in 1931 he began a prolonged collaboration with André Cournand at Bellevue Hospital and Columbia University. Dickinson Richards was married and had four children.
Even though Werner Forssmann succeeded in inserting a catheter into his own heart in 1929, there was great hesitance about continuing this type of research. Nonetheless, beginning in 1941 Dickinson Richards and André Cournand published a series of studies that established use of cardiac catheterization, among other things, to introduce contrast fluid for X-ray images and to measure pressure and oxygen content. Because it was possible to reach the upper chambers of the heart, blood pressure and the blood's oxygen content could be measured on the way from the heart to the lungs, which was impossible before.