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October 16: A Living Heart

October 16, 2014
628x471The first film of the inside of a living heart was shown at the New York Academy of Medicine on this date in 1951, the product of two Jewish surgeons, Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz and Dr. Elliott Hurwitt, and Antol Herskovitz, a medical photographer. A Cinematographic Study of the Function of the Mitral Valve in Situ showed the opening and closing of the mitral valve in a dog’s heart, a part of the heart often affected by rheumatic fever. Dr. Kantrowitz supervised the creation of the film as he was developing an artificial left heart for use as a component in a heart-lung machine for use during open-heart surgery. He also developed an implantable artificial pacemaker, performed the first heart transplant in the U.S., in 1967, and was the first doctor to enable paraplegic patients to move their limbs by electronically triggering their muscles. “My mother [a costume designer for the Ziegfeld Follies] told me from the age of 3 that I wanted to be a doctor.” —Adrian Kantrowitz