Banning Gray Lary, MD
  Banning Gray Lary (born June 26, 1924) is a surgeon, medical researcher and inventor whose original work on the onlay vein graft technique in the 1960s precipitated the many coronary bypass operations being used today. He studied with and became colleagues with leading surgical teachers and pioneers of his day including Warren Henry Cole, Arthur Vineberg, Geza de Takas and Andreas Gruentzig. Though most of his work in coronary artery disease was self-funded, Lary has received support through the years from various sources including the Howard Hughes Medical Foundation. He holds over 30 U.S. Patents and several foreign and has published scores of articles in professional medical journals.


Banning Gray Lary’s forbearers, originally named Lairy, arrived from Scotland and Ireland in the 1600’s in Virginia. They fought in the American Revolution and settled in Bourbon County in central Kentucky where they commingled with the Pendletons, perhaps being related to Edmund Pendleton, a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson.


Edmund Pendleton                              John Curtis Lary

The old family homestead on the Austerlitz Road outside of Paris, Kentucky, was built by John Curtright Lary, son of Dennis Lairy, Jr. His son. John Curtis Lary, was considered the "Renaissance Man of Bourbon County," and traveled to Europe in the 1880s to race penny-farthing bicycles.

Glenlary, in Paris, Kentucky c.2008

John Curtis' son, Virgil Pendleton Lary, served in both World Wars and made his way in the world as a stockbroker, later trying oil wildcatting in Longview, Texas, and finally becoming a CPA. Virgil was married to Thelma Valentine Gray three times and produced two sons, Virgil Pendleton Lary, Jr. and Banning Gray Lary in 1925.

Formative Years

Banning Gray Lary was challenged since his birth in Winchester, Kentucky, and the onset of the Great Depression. His early years were spent in Junior Military Academy near Cookeville, Tennessee. Sickly as a child, treatment he received from physicians made a deep and lasting impression on him. Recovering from a tonsillectomy at age 12, he knew then that he would be a doctor and dedicated his life to that calling. He became fascinated by nature and science in all its manifestations:


“It was thrilling to first learn about chlorophyll and how it converted sunlight into growing leafy things. It did not seem too difficult to realize that this was the basis for the food chain of all growing matter. I was fascinated with the stories about the development of the microscope and the early advances in medicine and the men who did these things. It seemed to me that knowledge and understanding science overcame superstition and the fear of the unknown. Books about doctors, laboratory experiments and diseases were my favorite readings. In these books I found my true heroes – Koch, Pasteur, Leeuwenhoek. Medicine was full of life and rich in experiences. I felt full and satisfied after I'd read the books. I was excited by the stories of discovery.”


Lary learned that diet and exercise were the keys to being healthy and preventing sickness. Through discipline and hard work, he developed himself into a swimmer and diver and worked as a lifeguard in the summer. He became the Oklahoma state diving champion and after high school won a scholarship on the University of Michigan swim team under notable coach Matt Mann.


During his freshman year, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and both his father (at age 44) and his brother enlisted in the United States Army. On December 12, 1942, Banning Gray Lary quit college and enlisted in the Third Armored Division of the United States Army and was sent to Fort Custer for training in the M4 Sherman Tank.

M4 Sherman Tank

After three months his company was sent to fight in North Africa, but Lary was held back, made platoon sergeant and assigned to train the next wave of recruits. His brother, Virgil Pendleton Lary, Jr., was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge in the infamous Malmedy Massacre on December 17, 1944, and was later awarded the Bronze Star for bravery.


At age eighteen, Lary was transferred into an Army specialized officer training program at Ohio State University where he became a cadet colonel in charge of 4,000 student soldiers. His acumen for medicine became known and he was sent to an accelerated program the University of Illinois Medical School to train as an Army doctor.  When the War ended, he continued his studies under the G.I. Bill.


Medical School

Doing research on hemorrhagic shock in the Physiology Department with Drs. Wiggers and Inghram, Lary expressed that he was more interested in learning to care for patients than to do experiments in a lab, to which the doctor replied:

“Every time you sit by a patient’s bedside you are doing research. Every time you feel a pulse, or look into a patient’s eyes or listen to his heart you are doing research. Medicine is a constant process of research by which medical knowledge grows. Research is indispensable to the practice of medicine itself.”

That comment was to have a profound affect later on guiding Lary’s medical career.


Chicago's Cook County Hospital

Lary interned at St Luke's Hospital in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, where he observed every conceivable kind of case while dealing with a dearth of medical supplies and medicines. He rotated through orthopedics, obstetrics, emergency – all medical departments. But, it was with surgery that he felt his greatest affinity, especially with the work and writing of Dr. Warren H. Cole, with whom Lary was selected for a year of special research on gall bladder disease. Lary’s recollection of the days working with Dr. Cole further stimulated his love for medical research:


“Dr. Cole and Dr. Evarts Ambrose Graham (first doctor to remove a lung in a human) developed the Graham-Cole test which, for the first time, permitted physicians throughout the world to determine whether stones were present or not within the gallbladder. He was world famous for this discovery that saved multitudes of lives - far more than any one man could ever save by doing surgery himself. Doing fundamental surgical research he demonstrated a positive result in one animal, but he could not repeat the result. This puzzled Dr. Cole to probe deeper and to search every possibility. He began to interview the animal caretakers and found out that the caretaker on duty had been drunk the night before and had failed to feed the animals. This meant that the animals had been fasting in order for the test to work. Thus by persistence and examining every possibility Dr. Cole uncovered a simple truth.”

Lary fell in love with Katherine Lee Tedrow, a lovely sorority gal from Princeton, Illinois, who attended Northwestern University. They were married in 1948 and had their first child in 1949. The Korean War broke out, Lary was called up from Air Force Reserves, but St. Luke's Hospital managed to get him deferred as Chief Resident. He continued in the laboratory with Wiggers and Inghram, wrote his thesis on the effect of rubber tubing on the healing of common bile duct injuries and received a master of surgery degree. His paper on intravenous oxygen was submitted to the forum of the American College of Surgeons for presentation at their annual meeting in October of 1952.


The stress and long hours caught up to him and Lary caught tuberculosis. This required that he receive air injections into his chest cavity for three years during which he joined Dr. Geza deTakats, a specialist in vascular surgery. Here Lary learned operations for varicose veins, nerve operations for high blood pressure and decreased arterial blood flow to other parts of the body – work that set a foundation for his later contributions in the field of coronary artery disease.

Private Practice

Completing residency training in Chicago, Lary had an opportunity to join the practice of Dr. John Reynolds, a leading Midwestern surgeon. But, desiring a warmer climate in which to raise his three sons, Dr. and Mrs. Lary decided to travel south and make Miami, Florida, their permanent home.


In Miami, Lary joined the established practice of another surgeon before venturing off on his own. He joined the Dade County Medical Association, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Civil Defense and quickly rose to leadership positions within those organizations.  He was admitted to surgical staffs of many Miami Hospitals and through the years held many Chief of Surgery and Chief of Staff positions.

As his medical practice grew, Lary was eager to get back into medical research and found facilities at Jackson Memorial, a teaching hospital connected to the University of Miami Medical School where he served on the volunteer faculty.

Jackson Memorial Hospital

Here Lary began what would evolve into his life's work: developing procedures and instruments that affect positive life-sustaining cures for coronary artery disease (see coronary artery research). This quest would take Lary across North America, in and out of laboratories and operating rooms where he would collaborate with some of the finest innovative minds in scientific engineering, theoretical and applied medicine. The result would be a series of patented surgical instruments and techniques that have been used to save and prolong the lives of tens of thousands of patients.


Community Service and Family

In addition, Lary developed a thriving medicine practice and served as a Miami community leader, teacher and mentor to many young physicians. Together with his wife, Katherine, they were involved in many philanthropic organizations. His hobbies included flying, snow skiing and white water rafting.

Banning Gray and Katherine Larys' three sons have each found success in their chosen fields. Banning Kent as an award-winning writer, painter and film maker. Scott Tedrow as a teacher and computer expert. And, Todd Pendleton, a noted biomedical engineer. Fourth son, Brett Curtright Lary, passed away in 1980. Dr. and Mrs. Lary also are blessed with seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. 

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