Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1903, John Heysham Gibbon received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1923, and his M.D. from Jefferson Medical College in 1927. His positions held include Professor of Surgery and Director of the Surgery Department, as well as the Samuel D. Gross Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Jefferson.

He is best known for his invention of the first heart-lung machine. The death of a young patient in 1931 inspired his research, and by 1935, he had created a machine that was able to keep a cat alive for almost half an hour. By the 50’s the device was sufficiently advanced enough to use on humans, and in 1935, he conducted the first successful open-heart bypass surgery using his machine.

He held honorary degrees from Princeton, Buffalo and Pennsylvania, and Dickinson Colleges. His awards include the Lasker Award, The Gairdner Foundation International Award, Distinguished Service Awards from both the International Society of Surgery and the Pennsylvania Medical Society, and the American Heart Association's Research Achievement Award.

He was also election into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and named an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and retired as Emeritus Professor of Surgery, Jefferson Medical College Hospital. Dr. Gibbon was also president of several professional societies and organizations including the American Surgical Association, American Association for Thoracic Surgery, Society of Vascular Surgery, and the Society of Clinical Surgery.

He passed away in 1973 at the age of 70.

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