Judith Graham Pool (1919-1975) was a researcher who made an important discovery in the treatment of hemophilia. In 1964, she developed cryoprecipitation, a way to produce concentrated amounts of antihemophilic factor, or AHF, a blood component necessary for clotting. The discovery of cryo revolutionized the treatment of hemophilia, making it easier and safer.
Judith Graham Pool
Early Interest in Science
Pool was born Judith Graham on June 1, 1919, in Queens, a borough of New York City. Graham was the oldest of three children of Leon Wilfred and Nellie Baron Graham. Nellie Graham was a teacher. Leon Graham was a native of England who worked as a stockbroker. Pool earned good grades in high school and especially loved science. She majored in biochemistry at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi.
While at the University of Chicago, Pool married political science student Ithiel de Sola Pool. She graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1939 and pursued graduate studies while working as an assistant in physiology at the university.
In 1942, the Pools moved to Geneva, New York, where Ithiel Pool got a job as a political science professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Pool began teaching physics at the same institutions. The Pools had two sons, Jonathon, born in 1942, and Jeremy, born in 1945. The couple divorced in 1953.
Overlooked in Frog Research
While working and caring for her young family, Pool worked toward her Ph.D. in physiology. Her dissertation was on the electrophysiology of muscle fibers. She worked in the laboratory of neurophysiologist Ralph Waldo Gerard at Hobart College. In 1942, Pool, Gerard, and another researcher published a paper in which they described the use of a microelectrode to record electromagnetic impulses in frog muscle fibers. Gerard furthered the research and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1950 for his work. Pool's contribution was largely overlooked, according to the book Women of Science: Righting the Record.
Pool received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1946. The Pools returned to Chicago when Ithiel Pool developed tuberculosis and began a long hospital stay. Pool worked a variety of jobs, including as a secretary, an English and physics teacher, a cancer researcher, and a teacher in a school for mentally handicapped children.
Ithiel Pool eventually recovered and moved the family to California when he was hired at Stanford University's Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. Pool became a researcher at the Stanford Research Institute. In 1953, she joined the staff at Stanford University's School of Medicine as a research fellow supported by a grant of the Bank of America-Giannini Foundation. With the exception of a year in Oslo, Norway, as a Fulbright research fellow, she spent the rest of her career at Stanford Medical School.
Breakthrough in Hemophilia Treatment
When Pool came to Stanford, her research focus changed from muscle physiology to blood physiology, an area she had no experience in. Nonetheless, the results of her research greatly improved the way hemophilia was treated. Until that time, hemophiliacs were treated with transfusions of plasma. Because the plasma contained low concentrations of antihemophilic factor (AHF), the component that aided blood clotting, the patients needed huge quantities of mostly useless fluid in order to receive adequate quantities of AHF. These massive transfusions carried a risk of circulatory overload and congestive heart failure.
Pool discovered a way to separate AHF from plasma so patients could get greater quantities of it. Pool discovered that when fresh frozen plasma is slowly thawed, it separates into layers. The bottom layer has heavy concentrations of AHF, ten times more than fresh plasma. Pool removed this layer and refroze it. The concentrated residue was called cryoprecipate, or cryo for short, because it was precipitated by extreme cold.
Pool and her colleagues first published the procedure in the journal Nature in 1964. She co-wrote a similar article for the New England Journal of Medicine in 1965. The procedure quickly became the standard in blood banks for treating hemophiliacs. Cryo had many advantages over previous treatments. It was more convenient and safer for patients, it could be refrozen and stored for a year, and it was relatively inexpensive and easy to prepare.
As a result of Pool's discovery, she was recognized as a leader in hemophilia research. She was awarded the Murray Thelin Award of the National Hemophilia Foundation in 1968 and the Elizabeth Blackwell Award from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1973. She delivered several lectures, including the Paul M. Anggeler Memorial Lecture in 1974. Pool became a member of the national scientific advisory committee of the National Institutes of Health and the American Red Cross Blood Program. In 1975, the University of Chicago gave her its Professional Achievement Award. After her death, the National Hemophilia Foundation changed the name of its grants to the Judith Graham Pool Research Fellowships.
In Journey, a book about hemophilia, Pool modestly said of her discovery, "I had no greater insight than anyone else. I just happened to be there at the right moment." Pool remained a senior research associate at Stanford until 1970, when she became a senior scientist. In 1972, when many academic institutions promoted women because of affirmative action, she was named a full professor, without having been in the lower professorial ranks.
Pool continued her research in blood coagulation for the remainder of her life. She devoted the later years of her career to advancing opportunities for women scientists. She was elected co-president of the Association of Women in Science in 1971. She was first chairwoman of the Professional Women of Stanford University Medical Center.
When she was 44, Pool gave birth to a daughter, Lorna. In 1972, Pool married Maurice Sokolow, professor of medicine and hematology, but the marriage lasted only three years.
Pool died of a brain tumor on July 13, 1975, in Stanford, California, at the age of 56. The book Notable American Women: The Modern Period reports that after Pool was diagnosed, she said, "The last few years of my life have been, I think, very unusual in that they have amounted to an experience for me of feeling overrewarded, overrecognized, overgratified beyond what anyone could expect, so there is no possibility of feeling cheated or regretful about what I will not have had as a result of dying earlier than expected. Quite the converse; it has almost been embarrassing in the other extreme."
An international medical journal published a tribute to Pool in 1988. It said, "One of the greatest contributions to the treatment of classic hemophilia was made by Dr. Judith Pool and her associates in 1964 and 1965. Dr. Pool's name will always be associated with greatness in the hemophilic and blood coagulation community for this discovery. Her place in the history of the treatment of hemophilia is secure and deservedly so."
Kass-Simon, G. and Patricia Farnes, Women of Science: Righting the Record, Indiana University Press, 1990.
Massie, Robert and Suzanne Massie, Journey, Alfred A. Knopf, 1975.
Notable Women Scientists, Gale Group, 2000.
Ogilvie, Marilyn and Joy Harvey, editors, Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, Routledge, 2000.
Sicherman, Barbara and Carol Hurd Green, Notable American Women: The Modern Period, Belknap Press, 1980.
"Five Key People in Hemophilia History," http://www.hemophiliagalaxy.com (February 17, 2003).