Christiaan Barnard

(1922—2001) South African surgeon

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Contemporary History (Post 1945)


Quick Reference


South African heart surgeon who carried out the first heart transplant in 1967.

Barnard graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1946 and became resident surgeon at the Groote Schuur Hospital, where he discovered that intestinal atresia (congenital obstruction in the small intestine) is caused by an inadequate blood supply to the fetus during pregnancy and developed a procedure to correct it. He later took a scholarship at the University of Minnesota, USA (1956–58), where he specialized in cardiothoracic surgery; on obtaining his doctorate, he returned to the Groote Schuur Hospital to concentrate on open-heart surgery. During this period he designed the Barnard artificial heart valve and began experimenting on heart transplants in dogs. In 1967 he led a team of surgeons in successfully replacing the heart of Louis Washkansky with that of an accident victim. However, the patient died eighteen days later from infections contracted as a result of the destruction of his immune system by the drugs used to suppress rejection of the donor heart by his body. Barnard retired as a surgeon in 1983 and later entered politics. His publications include two volumes of autobiography, One Life (1970) and The Second Life (1993).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

Reference entries