Affairs of the Heart – Dr Christiaan Barnard

In the romantic world, they say our hearts are often broken. Unfortunately, this is also true in regards to our physical heart health.

Therefore, we are forever grateful to pioneering heart surgeon, Dr Christiaan Barnard, for his determination and skill that created hope for those suffering from cardiac problems.

Christiaan Barnard was born in November 1922 in South Africa. One of his brothers died of heart problems and perhaps this urged Christiaan to study medicine. He went on to specialise in cardio thoracic surgery. Dr Barnard performed the second kidney transplant in South Africa in October 1967.

Then just two months later on 3 December 1967 (and assisted by his own brother), Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first human heart transplant operation.

Later he wrote, “For a dying man it is not a difficult decision because he knows he is at the end. If a lion chases you to the bank of a river filled with crocodiles, you will leap into the water, convinced you have a chance to swim to the other side.”

Follow Christiaan Barnard, as he developed remarkable skills and methods to help people all over the world.  He dedicated his life and work to the medical profession and his achievements have had a profound influence on the world of cardiac surgery. Gain a personal insight into the life of ‘the man with the Golden Hands’ in his personal BioView story, one of many in our on-line digital library.

There are many featured ‘medical pioneers’ in our library such as Marie CurieJoseph ListerEdith Cavell and Louis Pasteur. Together with other high achievers in a variety of fields, their stories are incredible! How can students learn from their success? What motivated them?

  • they are perfect role models to aspire to
  • they enable all of us to explore their inspiring stories and to appreciate their insight
  • they are proof for leaders, teachers and parents to share with their colleagues, students and children, that determination, hard work and commitment pay off
  • they are an absorbing, interesting and effective way for you to reinforce not just work ethics, but LIFE ethics too
  • they allow us to appreciate how others have changed the medical world

We can learn a lot from the achievements of amazing people. Not only in the areas for which they are acclaimed, but in the way they lived their lives. Their selfless approach to life and the many people they assisted is encouragement for all of us in times of doubt and hardship.


  • What year was Christiaan Barnard born in?
  • In 1956, Christiaan won a two-year scholarship for what type of training?
  • In what hospital was the first human heart transplant performed?
  • How many years did the fifth heart recipient live for?
  • What prompted Christiaan to retire from surgery?

Dr Charles Margerison is a Chartered Psychologist and has consulted widely for major organizations in the fields of organizational and educational psychology. He was previously Professor of Management at Cranfield University, UK, and the University of Queensland, Australia. Dr Margerison founded Amazing People Worldwide in 2006 and is supported by a dedicated global team. He previously co-founded Emerald Insights, and Team Management Systems and has authored more than 30 books.


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