Christiaan Barnard

South African Cardiac Surgeon
Born Nov 8, 1922

Christiaan Neethling Barnard was a South African cardiac surgeon who performed the world's first successful human-to-human heart transplant.

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Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of Christiaan Barnard.


1922 Birth Born on November 8, 1922.


1940 17 Years Old Barnard matriculated from the Beaufort West High School in 1940, and went to study medicine at the University of Cape Town Medical School, where he obtained his MB ChB in 1945.


1948 25 Years Old Barnard's first marriage was to Aletta Gertruida Louw, a nurse, whom he married in 1948 while practising medicine in Ceres. … Read More
1951 28 Years Old Barnard did his internship and residency at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, after which he worked as a general practitioner in Ceres, a rural town in the Cape Province. In 1951, he returned to Cape Town where he worked at the City Hospital as a Senior Resident Medical Officer, and in the Department of Medicine at the Groote Schuur Hospital as a registrar.


1953 30 Years Old He completed his master's degree, receiving Master of Medicine in 1953 from the University of Cape Town. … Read More
1956 33 Years Old In 1956, he received a two-year scholarship for postgraduate training in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, United States under open-heart surgery pioneer Walt Lillehei. … Read More
1958 35 Years Old In 1958 he received a Master of Science in Surgery for a thesis titled "The aortic valve – problems in the fabrication and testing of a prosthetic valve". … Read More
1960 37 Years Old In 1960, he flew to Moscow in order to meet Vladimir Demikhov, a top expert on organ transplants.
1961 38 Years Old In 1961 he was appointed Head of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the teaching hospitals of the University of Cape Town.
1962 39 Years Old He rose to the position of Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Cape Town in 1962. … Read More


1967 44 Years Old He performed the world's first human heart transplant operation on 3 December 1967, in an operation assisted by his brother, Marius Barnard; the operation lasted nine hours and used a team of thirty people. … Read More
1969 46 Years Old International fame took a toll on his personal life, and in 1969, Barnard and his wife divorced.
1970 47 Years Old In 1970, he married heiress Barbara Zoellner when she was 19, the same age as his son, and they had two children — Frederick (born 1972) and Christiaan Jr. (born 1974).


1982 59 Years Old He divorced Zoellner in 1982. Barnard married for a third time in 1988 to Karin Setzkorn, a young model. They also had two children, Armin (born 1990) and Lara (born 1997), but this last marriage also ended in divorce in 2000. … Read More


1983 60 Years Old Barnard retired as Head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Cape Town in 1983 after developing rheumatoid arthritis in his hands which ended his surgical career. … Read More
1986 63 Years Old He had by this time become very interested in anti-aging research, and his reputation suffered in 1986 when he promoted Glycel, an expensive "anti-aging" skin cream, whose approval was withdrawn by the United States Food and Drug Administration soon thereafter. … Read More
1993 70 Years Old …  His second autobiography, The Second Life, was published in 1993, eight years before his death. … Read More
2001 79 Years Old Christiaan Barnard died on 2 September 2001, while on holiday in Paphos, Cyprus.
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