Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Dickinson Woodruff Richards, Jr.
Dickinson Woodruff Richards, Jr. "Our findings have been for the most part preliminary, revealing new problems more often than solving old ones."

Dickinson Woodruff Richards, Jr. (1895–1973)
MA 1922, MD 1923
Faculty 1928–61

Dickinson Woodruff Richards established a cardiopulmonary laboratory at Bellevue Hospital with André F. Cournand in 1932. Working with a series of collaborators, the two men pioneered the conceptual merger of the heart and lung into a single organ. Their findings revolutionized cardiology and pulmonology, provided the basis for open-heart surgery, and culminated in the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which they shared with the German physician Werner O.T. Forssmann.

Richards worked toward an MA in physiology while simultaneously enrolled as a medical student at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Upon graduating, he spent four years of residency at Presbyterian Hospital and a fifth year studying in England. In 1928, he was appointed to the attending staff at Presbyterian as well as the P&S faculty. His forty-year partnership with Cournand began three years later; they began their studies in pulmonary and cardiac physiology by trying to identify precisely how the lung conveys oxygen from the air into the bloodstream. In his years of "retirement" —1961 to 1973—Richards wrote eloquently on medicine and society, the education of doctors, and medical ethics. His writings helped to bring about the series of events that led to the building of the new Bellevue and other reforms in the New York hospital system.

Adapted from "Faculty Remembered" by Nicholas P. Christy MD 1951 (P&S, Winter 2001)

Read about Richards in the Columbia Encyclopedia.
André Frédéric Cournand


Living Legacy

Cournand, Richards and the Bellevue Hospital Cardiopulmonary Laboratory


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