Dr. Jesse E. Edwards, a cardiologist who established one of the world's largest collections of hearts to help the study of heart disease, died of heart failure Sunday at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minn. He was 96.
Edwards, a cardiac pathologist, was one of a group of Minnesota pioneers in cardiac surgery and medicine who revolutionized the study and treatment of heart problems, said Dr. Victor Tschida, medical director of the Nasseff Heart Center at United Hospital in St. Paul and a former student of Edwards.
Edwards, a Massachusetts native, graduated from Tufts Medical School in Boston and later served as commander in chief of the Central Medical Laboratories of the European Theater during World War II, where he was part of a war crimes team that went into the Dachau concentration camp three days after the Allies had liberated it.
In 1946, Edwards went to work at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where in the early 1950s he was a member of the first open heart surgery team. In 1960, he departed for the University of Minnesota, where he taught for many years, and Miller Hospital in St. Paul, now United Hospital.
It was there that he established what is now known as the Jesse E. Edwards Registry of Cardiovascular Disease, which contains more than 22,000 hearts sent for study from physicians around the world.
It is one of the largest collections of its kind and a tremendous resource in the study of heart ailments, Tschida said.