Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) Pioneer in Blood Plasma Storage


Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) Pioneer in Blood Plasma Storage


Here we have what rarely happens in history, a life which crowds into a handful of years significance so great, men will never forget it.

By Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson, former president of Howard University. Quoted in the American Red Cross's online museum article: Dr. Charles Drew, Medical Pioneer.


Charles Alston, an African-American artist and educator, drew this cartoon in 1943. In addition to the athletic accomplishments of Charles Richard Drew, it also highlights the importance of his medical contributions.

Today’s blood banks find their roots in the research of Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950), who made important breakthroughs in the storage of blood plasma. Born in 1904, he taught in college science in Baltimore in order to save money for medical school tuition. After earning his degree from McGill University in Canada, he completed a fellowship at Columbia University. It was there that he developed a method for processing and storing blood plasma. At the time, blood was perishable and rendered unusable after a week’s time. His methods of dehydrating and shipping blood plasma were revolutionary in the medical world.

During World War II, one of Drew’s former professors made the following request: “Secure 5,000 ampules of dried plasma for transfusion.” By organizing a “Blood for Britain” campaign, Drew was able to fulfill this need, recruiting 100,000 blood donors for the United States military. This accomplishment brought him to a leadership position with the  American Red Cross blood bank. At the time, the blood supply was segregated according to the donor’s race. After unsuccessful protest against this principle, he chose to resign from this position.

Charles Richard Drew also taught at Howard University, and later became the chief surgeon at Freedmen’s Hospital. He received numerous awards and honorary degrees, and, after his election to the International College of Surgeons, he advised the U.S. Surgeon General while traveling through post-war Europe.


Charles Henry Alston 1907-1977






Source: Charles Richard Drew. (n.d.). PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved October 12, 2012


National Archives


National Archives


Medium: Drawing






Charles Richard Drew, Blood Plasma, Medicine, Blood, World War II, American Red Cross





Charles Henry Alston 1907-1977, Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) Pioneer in Blood Plasma Storage, National Archives, 1943

Cite As

Charles Henry Alston 1907-1977, “Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) Pioneer in Blood Plasma Storage,” Virtual Museum of Public Service, accessed May 23, 2024,