The Man Behind America’s First Heart Transplant

Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz pioneered human heart transplantation in the U.S. fifty years ago today.

Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz
Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz

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Fifty years ago, on December 6, 1967, Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz performed the first human heart transplant in the U.S. The surgeon experimented with transplantation and prosthetics at Maimonides hospital in Brooklyn throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Two days before Kantrowitz’s heart transplant between two infants, the world’s first successful human heart transplant was performed by Christiaan Barnard in Cape Town, South Africa.

Kantrowitz had been working to set the record for years, transplanting hearts in 411 dogs before moving on to human subjects. In 1965, the Post covered Kantrowitz’s work in experimental medical technology — particularly early pacemakers and prosthetics. Most of these innovations were cumbersome and impractical, and most of the first heart transplants succeeded only for hours. Kantrowitz’s work, however, was crucial in the development of transplantation and cardiac devices used today.

Read “Must Your Body Wear Out?” by C.P. Gilmore. Published September 25, 1965 in the Post

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