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October 21, 2008
9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Room Hall E2-Area D,
Frank Murphy, the Murphy Eye, and Mid-Century Anesthesia
John E. Forestner, M.D.
Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas
Frank Murphy (1900-1972) is famous for first describing the second hole on the end of the endotracheal tube, commonly referred to as the Murphy eye. Most anesthesiologists know the eponym, but know nothing about the man. Reconstructing his career has been possible through information in the Wood Library Museum and Mayo Clinic Archives, and from interviews with professional colleagues who are still alive.

Murphy was born in South Dakota, and grew up in Alberta, Canada, taking his undergraduate degree at the University of Edmonton. He completed his medical degree in 1925 at McGill University in Montreal. He took two more years of training in anesthesia at Montreal General Hospital and private hospitals nearby, and had frequent contact with notable Montreal anesthetists of the 1920's, including C.S. Stewart, Wesley Bourne, and Harold Griffiths. He was recruited to Detroit in 1930 to be Chief of Anesthesia at Harper Hospital, a position he held until 1941, when he volunteered for military service in World War II.

He published several papers on anesthesia topics in surgical journals during the 1930's, and was asked by McMechan to comment on papers at yearly meetings of the I.A.R.S. Murphy's paper describing the side hole on the insufflation endotracheal tube apppeared in McMechan's journal, Anesthesia and Analgesia, in 1941. Murphy was board certified in 1939 (certificate #60), and joined the American Society of Anesthetists in 1940. Evidence suggests that he was in contact with his mentors in Montreal through this period, and they were most likely responsible for his election to the Anesthetists Travel Club as its 39th and last member, in November 1941.

Murphy served in the Navy in the Pacific theater, and at the end of the war he was Chief of Anesthesia at the Naval Hospital, Pearl Harbor. Following the war he was recruited by some of his Naval colleagues to replace the Chief of Anesthesiology at the University of California Hospital in San Francisco, where he remained from 1946 to 1956. He resigned that position following reviews of the residency program by the American Board of Anesthesiology, although it is suggested that economic pressures may also have been a factor in his removal. He moved to Billings, Montana, where he practiced anesthesiology until his death from a urologic malignancy in 1972.

Murphy was associated with many important figures in the development of anesthesiology as a specialty in the pre-war and post-war eras. His career reflects the increasing professionalization of the specialty throughout this period, and the higher standards required for training programs which were seen after the War. His major contribution, the Murphy eye, has evolved considerably since it was first described, and it is not clear that he ever appreciated the full significance of this innovation.

Support from a Wood Library Fellowship is gratefully acknowledged, as well as the generous assistance of Patrick Sim and the staff at the Wood Library Museum of Anesthesiology.

Anesthesiology 2008; 109 A1361