Dickinson Woodruff Richards, Jr. was born in Orange, New Jersey on October 30, 1895. He attended Yale University (B.A. 1917) and upon graduation, joined the United States Army, serving as an artillery officer in France at the end of the First World War. In 1919, he was discharged and entered Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons (M.D. 1923). In addition to his medical degree, he also received a Master of Arts degree (1922) in physiology under the guidance of Professor Ernest L. Scott.
He taught as Columbia beginning in 1925 and served as Intern (1924) and Resident (1925-1927) at Presbyterian Hospital, with later positions there (1928-1961) and at Bellevue Hospital (1933-1961). Before 1968, Bellevue Hospital’s First Medical Division was staffed by faculty from Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons. During this time, he collaborated with André Cournand at Bellevue Hospital in the fields of pulmonary and cardiac diseases. Dickinson, along with Cournand and German physician Werner Forssmann, received a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1956 for “their discoveries concerning heart catheterization and pathological changes in the circulatory system.”
Dickinson also served as Scientific Director (1937-1950), among other roles, to the Merck Institute and edited the Merck Manual. The Merck Company Foundation endowed a professorship in medicine in his honor at Columbia University in 1968.
He co-authored the book, Circulation of the Blood: Men and Ideas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964) with Alfred P. Fishman, and Medical Priesthoods and Other Essays (Connecticut Printers, 1970). He received the Trudeau Medal from the National Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association (1968), the Kober Medal from the Association of American Physicians (1970), and the Diamond Jubilee Medal from Bellevue Hospital (1973).
He retired from Presbyterian and Bellevue hospitals in 1961, serving as a medical consultant for a number of years. He died in Lakeville, Connecticut on February 23, 1973 at the age of 77.