Dr. James Hardy, 84; First Heart Transplant Surgeon

From Associated Press

Dr. James D. Hardy, the surgeon who implanted the first animal heart into a human, helping pave the way for heart transplants, has died. He was 84.

Doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where Hardy conducted his groundbreaking transplant research, said Hardy had suffered from heart failure in recent years and died of pneumonia late Wednesday at a nursing home in Jackson, Miss.

As the medical center’s surgery chief, Hardy headed teams that did three pioneering operations: the first human lung transplant in 1963; the first animal-to-human heart transplant in 1964; and a double lung transplant that left the heart in place in 1987.

“He didn’t do these transplants to be the first,” said Dr. William W. Turner Jr., chairman of the medical center’s surgery department.


“What he was incredibly proud of was taking techniques that had been developed in the laboratory and extending them to humans,” Turner said.

The 1964 operation -- three years before the first successful human-to-human heart transplant was performed by South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard -- was the most controversial.

Hardy had been conducting transplant research in relative obscurity since 1955, and was ready to perform the first transplant of a human heart in 1964.

But when 68-year-old Boyd Rush was admitted to the medical center on Jan. 23, 1964, no human heart was immediately available. Hardy decided to use the heart of a chimpanzee named Bino.

The newly transplanted heart beat on its own at first, but it was too small to maintain independent circulation. Rush died after 90 minutes.

In reflecting on the impact of the surgery, Hardy once wrote that the heart transplant “precipitated intense ethical, moral, social, religious, financial, governmental and even legal concerns.”

“We had not transplanted merely a human heart; we had transplanted a subhuman heart,” Hardy wrote.

In all, sheep, baboon and chimpanzee hearts were transplanted into at least four adults between 1964 and 1977; all died within 3 1/2 days.


In 1984, an infant known as Baby Fae received a baboon heart at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Southern California. She lived for 20 days.

A native of Newala, Ala., Hardy received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942. He served as chairman of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s surgery department from 1955, when the teaching hospital opened, until retiring in 1987.

His wife, Louise Scott Sams Hardy, died in 2000. Two of their four daughters became doctors.