They called him “the Divine messenger”. To the 100th anniversary of Christiaan N. Barnard.

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This paper is devoted to the 100th anniversary of Christiaan N. Barnard (1922–2001) — a South African cardiac surgeon, humanitarian activist and writer who implemented the first human heart transplantation. By the middle of 1960-s about a dozen clinics all over the world were technically ready for this kind of injury, being opposed by legal uncertainty and prejudice. Somebody had to have enough courage and responsibility to overcome these obstacles. It was Barnard who did it. On December 3, 1967, at Groote Schuur University Hospital in Cape Town, he replaced the failing heart of 54-year-old Louis Washkansky with the healthy heart of 25-year-old Denise Darvall, who had died with extensive brain damage from a car accident. This event not only opened a new page in open-heart surgery. As clinical firsts, Barnard’s heart transplantations were great miraculous medical successes that fueled a kind of media frenzy. They were considered to be a world sensation comparable to early space flights, and his personal popularity — comparable to that of movie stars. Barnard’s professional activity. that saved many hundreds of human lives, lasted until he retired in 1983 to devote the rest of his life to charity and humanitarian projects. His antiracist novel “The unwanted” as well as non-fictions “One Life “ and “50 ways to a healthy heart” became the world bestsellers. In our time more than 3500 patients receive new hearts worldwide annually. More than half of the treated patients are expected to survive longer than for 10 years. It is the best monument in memory of this outstanding surgeon and humanist.

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About the authors

Andrey P. Pugovkin

St. Petersburg State Pediatric Medical University

Author for correspondence.

PhD, Dr. Sci. (Biol.), Professor, Department of Human Physiology

Russian Federation, Saint Petersburg

Valeriy O. Erkudov

St. Petersburg State Pediatric Medical University


MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Physiology

Russian Federation, Saint Petersburg


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Supplementary files

Supplementary Files
1. Fig. 1. Suturing in orthotopic heart transplantation according to Barnard [15]

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2. Fig. 2. Christiaan Barnard in 1969

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