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This article was published in The American Surgeon Volume 77, Issue 9, September 2011, Pages 1112-1114.

The published version is available at PMID: 21944617. Copyright © Ingenta


Throughout history there have been many discoveries that have changed the world, including Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, and Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce’s microchip. There are a few analogous contributions that have been made in medicine: Sir Alexander’s discovery of penicillin, Lister’s principles of antiseptic technique, Salk and Sabin’s vaccines for polio, as well as numerous others. These innovative thinkers all had two factors in common. First, they were pioneers who faced problems that had no solutions at the time and who refused to accept the status quo in the face of great scrutiny and resistance. Second, their contributions would forever change the world. In 1930, a profound experience with a patient would forever change Dr. John H. Gibbon, Jr. and stimulate an idea to create a device that at the time sounded audacious and impossible. His device would temporarily take the role of both the heart and lungs to make repairs inside the heart or the great vessels. Twentythree years later, Dr. Gibbon used his machine to perform the first successful bypass-assisted open heart surgery.