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Happy 137th Birthday Thomas Addis – Edinburgh’s early Haemophilia researcher

It was on this day in 1881 that Thomas Addis was born in Edinburgh.  His grandfather, Rev Dr Thomas Addis DD, was the Minister at Morningside Free Kirk.  He worked in the laboratories of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh which were in Lauriston Lane/Forrest Road, just round the corner from the offices of Haemophilia Scotland today.

Thomas AddisHe was working at a time when haemophilia was very poorly understood.  He argued that haemophilia was caused by an inherited blood defect affecting prothrombin.  His later work showed that the missing component in the blood of people with haemophilia was in blood plasma rather than the cells or platelets.  On May 20th 1910 he was responsible for the first ever transfusion of fresh anticoagulated blood to someone with haemophilia. However, it was conducted for research purposes rather than to treat the patient. These early transfusions were dangerous for patients as blood groups were not understood at the time.

Thomas Addis also has strong political views and, after moving to America, joined the Communist Party.  He was particularly concerned about the problems of those who were unable to pay for hospital fees or laboratory costs.  He later service as a captain in the US Army medical Corps during World War I and had risen to Surgeon General by World War II.



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