On this day in 1964, Dr. James Hardy transplanted a chimpanzee heart into a human. The patient, Boyd Rush, died within two hours.
Hardy had kept two chimps in a lab, waiting for the opportunity. In announcing the transplant attempt, the hospital spokesman omitted the fact that it had been a chimpanzee's heart. The hospital was forced to admit it several days later, to quell rumors that they had taken a heart from a living human. Instead, they had taken it from a living chimpanzee.
I should point out that most of the medical world was appalled at what Hardy had done. As told in Knife to the Heart, "moral and professional indignation were [Hardy's] only rewards." However, that did not stop others, as late as 1977: Tom Starzl (3 chimpanzee livers transplanted into humans), Raffaello Cortesini (organs and numbers unknown), and Christiaan Barnard (two chimpanzee hearts into humans). Preceding them all, in 1963, was Keith Reemtsma, at the Tulane University School of Medicine, who tried on five separate occasions to transplant chimpanzee kidneys into humans.
All transplantation attempts were unsuccessful.
I don’t know where Hardy got the adult chimpanzees that he used. In 1964, North American zoos transferred at least 18 chimps into identified research programs or into unidentified private hands. We know the names of some of the chimps that were dumped by the zoos: Ricky, Albert, Sammy, Bobby, Chico (see Zoo to Lab for more info on Sammy, Bobby, and Chico), George, Vicky Jean, Marty, Gina, Chuck II, Clyde, Fritz, Kiki, and Candy.
Today, let’s remember the early chimpanzee victims, as well as the thousand chimps still in research labs.