Dr. John Gibbon, Heart-Lung Machine Inventor, Was Media Retiree

Dr. John Gibbon, inventor of the heart-lung machine who retired to Media
Image via Thomas Jefferson University Archives
Dr. John Gibbon, inventor of the heart-lung machine who retired to Media

Dr. John Gibbon, the doctor who performed the world’s first successful open-heart surgery 70 years ago on May 6, 1952, was a retiree at Lynnfield Farm in Media.

Dr. Gibbon, who died in 1973, devoted himself to painting and poetry in his retirement, but earlier in his career, he invented the heart-lung machine with his wife, Mary, that made open heart surgery possible, writes Nicole Leonard for WHYY.

Dr. Gibbon’s heart-lung machine, built in collaboration with IBM. Image via Thomas Jefferson University Archives, Philadelphia.

Mary Hopkinson was the daughter of painter Charles Hopkinson and was Dr. Gibbon’s assistant.

Dr. Gibbon was a researcher and surgeon at Jefferson Medical College Hospital in Philadelphia.

He used his new invention to perform open-heart surgery for the first time on an 18-year-old Philadelphia woman, putting her on bypass for 26 minutes while he closed a hole in her heart.

These days, more than two million people worldwide undergo open heart surgery annually.

“I’m blessed to teach at an institution where the first heart-lung machine was utilized,” said Brian Schwartz, program director of cardiovascular perfusion at Jefferson.  “And the coolest part about that story is that Dr. Gibbon’s wife was his perfusionist.”

In surgery, tubes carry blood between a patient’s body and a heart-lung bypass machine, which oxygenates and circulates the blood while surgeons work on the heart.

Read more about Dr. John Gibbon at WHYY.

Remembering the first open heart surgeries with Dr. Gibbon.

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