Monday March 02, 2015
history podcasts
printer friendly version

18-052 First Human Heart Transplant I

Monday Mar 02, 2015

Lead: In December 1967, surgeons in South Africa performed the first human heart transplant. 53-year-old Lewis Washkansky survived for 18 days.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The work of Dr. Christiaan Barnard in transplanting the heart of 25-year-old auto accident victim Denise Durvall into Washkansky built on more than two centuries of experimentation in immunology and surgery. This progress was enhanced by the late 19th-century work on antibodies by Paul Ehrlich, the blood typing research of Karl Landsteiner in 1900, and Ilya Metchnikoff’s theory of host rejection.

By the beginning of the twentieth century improvements in surgery techniques, particularly suturing, encouraged surgeons to begin experimenting with organ transplants. Soon it was clear that xenographic or cross-species transplants did not work at all and that allogeneic transplants between candidates of the same species rarely succeeded. What did work was autographic transplantation or a transplant within a single individual such as skin grafting.

By the 1950s research had led to the conclusion that organs such as the heart could theoretically be transplanted. This required dealing with host rejection of an alien organ. The body sees a heart from a donor as an enemy to be destroyed. Chemicals could suppress this phenomenon, but that enhances the risk of infection because the patient’s immune system is compromised.

Next time: heart transplantation comes into its own.

At the University of Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies, I’m Dan Roberts.


Cheng, Allen, “Heart Transplantation,” Journal of Thoracic Disease, 6 (8, August, 1, 2014): 1105-1109.

Stuart, Frank P, Michael M. Abecassis, Dixon B. Kaufman. Organ Transplantation. Austin, TX: Landes Bioscience, 2000.

Copyright 2015 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.


Welcome to with Dan Roberts!

A Moment In Time has made history come alive to all audiences (history enthusiasts and novices, alike) with its short segments on all the important events of human history.  Yet A Moment In Time has not stopped there and is always working to make all of this crucial information more accessible.

Now with podcasts (audio and video), TV segments and more, is the handiest source of AMIT transcripts, audio, video, podcast, and RSS feeds of the internationally acclaimed public radio segment created, hosted and produced by Dan Roberts. 

Visit regularly to read, hear and see the daily segments of AMIT or to find locations at which you can hear Dan Roberts speak live. And sign up to receive daily transcripts of A Moment In Time in your e-mail!

Copyright by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.