Born in November 1922, Christiaan Barnard was brought up in South Africa with his four brothers – one of whom died of a heart problem at the age of five.
He studied medicine at the University of Cape Town Medical School and graduated in 1945. He then worked in a rural town in Cape Province before returning to Cape Town to complete his Master of Medicine degree at the University of Cape Town.
Barnard then spent time in America, training in cardiothoracic surgery. On returning to South Africa in 1958, he established Groote Schurr Hospital’s first heart unit, and was eventually appointed as Professor of Surgical Science at the University of Cape Town in 1972.
As well as performing the world’s first successful heart transplant, he also carried out a number of milestone procedures that he himself pioneered.
Barnard retired as Head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Cape Town in 1983 and died of a severe asthma attack in Cyprus in September 2001.
Sir Michael Woodruff
Sir Michael Woodruff is principally remembered for his research into organ transplantation. He was born in London in April 1911, and spent most of his early life in Australia, gaining degrees in electrical engineering and medicine.
He gained his medical degree in 1937 before starting his surgical training and gaining a Master of Surgery degree in 1941.
While working at the University of Sheffield, he studied the processes in which the immune system of a transplant recipient attacks the transplanted tissue. In 1957, Woodruff was appointed to the Chair of Surgical Science at the University of Edinburgh, and it was while working in Scotland in 1960 that he carried out the first ever kidney transplant in the UK.
Until his retirement in 1976,Woodruff performed 127 kidney transplants . He then spent ten years working in cancer research. Woodruff died in March 2001, aged 89.
Thomas Starzl was born in Iowa in March 1926. A researcher and expert on organ transplants, he is often referred to as the father of modern transplantation.
Starzl intended to join the priesthood until he changed his career path when his mother died of breast cancer. He gained his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Westminster College in Missouri, before receiving a Master of Science degree in 1950, and a PHD in neurophysiology in 1952.
He worked as a surgeon and researcher at the University of Colorado from 1962. He performed the first liver transplant in 1963, and the first successful liver transplant in 1967.
Starzl moved to the University of Pittsburgh in 1981, where he has remained since, however he retired from surgical duties in 1991 and continues to work in the field of research.
Sir Roy Calne
A pioneer in organ transplantation, Sir Roy Calne was born in Surrey, in December 1930 and carried out the world’s first liver, heart and lung transplant in 1987.
Calne also performed this first liver transplant in Europe in 1968 and developed many pioneering procedures throughout his career, including the first intestinal transplant in 1992.
He became Professor of Surgery at Cambridge University between 1965 and 1998, and he is currently Professor of Surgery at the National University of Singapore.