page banner for a timeline of major advances in surgical transplants
page banner for a timeline of major advances in surgical transplants


Surgery has proved to be one of the greatest achievements of medicine. We now think of human heart transplants as fairly commonplace but they were still unthinkable and “impossible” in the 1950s. But just how far will surgery continue to push its boundaries? What will the future hold for head transplants and the creation of cyborgs of many different kinds? The best way to fuel your imagination is to study the great developments of the past – and to honour those who made them possible.


herophilus - scientific dissections

Herophilus (335-280 BC) “the father of anatomy” begins scientific dissection of cadavers


galen of pergamon - animal dissections

Galen of Pergamon (circa 129-210 AD) uses animal dissections to increase knowledge of anatomy, becoming a highly skilled human surgeon; writes medical classics like On Anatomical Procedure and Of the Uses of the Parts of the Body of Man


da vinci, michelangelo & durer

 During the Renaissance (1300-1600) master-artists, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Albrecht Durer, base their extraordinary drawings and paintings of humans and animals on anatomical knowledge derived from dissections


SCIEntific revolution

Europe’s scientific revolution begins in 1543 with the publication of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres and On the Fabric of the Human Body by Andreas Vesalius


joseph lister - sterilisation

Joseph Lister (1827 –1912) pioneered antiseptic, or sterile, surgery, including use of phenol for sterilising instruments and cleaning wounds


alexander horsley - neurological surgery

Sir Victor Alexander Haden Horsley (1857 – 1916) pioneered neurological surgery in Britain


harvey cushing - "father of neurosurgery"

Harvey Williams Cushing (1869 –1939), an American neurosurgeon and pathologist, considered by many to be the father of neurosurgery


john gibbon - open heart procedure

In 1935, John Gibbon (1903 –1973) develops a machine that could replace the function of a cat’s heart and lungs for 20 minutes, the precursor to the human heart-lung machine; in 1953, Gibbon performs the first successful open heart procedure on a human using cardiopulmonary bypass


vladimir petrovich demikhov - transplantology

Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov (1916 –1998) pioneers transplantology in the 1950s, even creating a metal artificial heart


Dr Per-Ingvar Brånemark - osseointegration

In 1952, Dr Per-Ingvar Brånemark (1929 –2014) discovered that titanium fuses well with bone in a process he named osseointegration, later enabling artificial teeth to be permanently anchored in a patient’s jaw and experimenting with permanent joins for amputees


dr robert white - monkey head transplants

Dr Robert White (1926-2010), inspired by Demikhov, carries out head transplants on monkeys; he practices complex transplant techniques on corpses


dr christiaan barnard - human heart transplant

The world’s first human heart transplant is carried out by Dr Christiaan Barnard’s cardiac team at Groote Schuur Hospital on 3 December, 1967


barney clark - first human to receive permanent artificial heart

In 1982, Barney Clark became the first human to receive a permanent artificial heart, a device known as the Jarvik 7, invented by Robert Jarvik, MD and transplanted by cardiothoracic surgeon Dr William DeVries at the University of Utah Hospital; Clark lived for 112 days on the machine organ.


intelligent prosthetics

The 1990s see the rise of smart or intelligent prosthetics, paving the way for the future of robotic prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by the brain and which provide sensory feedback; an era of bionic prosthetics has already begun with recipients able to control their bionic legs with their thoughts, making use of tiny implanted myoelectric sensors surgically implanted in residual muscle tissue.


First full face transplant

In March 2010, a team of thirty Spanish doctors carried out the first full face transplant, on a man injured in a shooting accident


first head transplant

The world’s first successful head transplant…

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first successful brain extraction

The world’s first successful brain extraction and transplant…

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