André Frederic Cournand


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(1895–1988) French–American physician

Cournand, the son of a Paris physician, was educated at the Sorbonne and, after serving in World War I, at the University of Paris where he finally obtained his MD in 1930. He then went to America for postgraduate work, at Bellevue Hospital, New York, and began working in collaboration with the American physician Dickinson Richards (1895–1973). Cournand remained in America, became naturalized in 1941, and continued at Bellevue where he served as professor of medicine from 1951 until his retirement in 1964.

In 1941 Cournand, in collaboration with H. Ranges, continued the earlier work of Werner Forssmann and developed cardiac catheterization as a tool of physiological research. He found, contrary to expectation, that the technique did not lead to blood clotting and involved virtually no discomfort.

Cournand spent much time in attempting to determine the pressure drop across the pulmonary system. He investigated the effect of shock on cardiac function and assessed the consequences of various congenital heart defects. He also looked at the action of drugs, notably the digitalin type, on the heart.

In 1945 Cournand introduced an improved catheter with two branches through which simultaneous pressures in two adjacent heart chambers could be recorded. This led to greatly improved diagnoses of anatomical abnormalities, which consequently provided a better guide to treatment.

For his “discoveries concerning heart catheterization” Cournand shared the 1956 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine with Forssmann and Richards.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics.

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