The history of transplantation medicine begins with the altruism of a twin brother and the skillful hands of American surgeons. 

1954 – The first human organ transplant

More than 60 years have passed since the world’s first human organ transplantation was performed. Ronald Herrick donated his kidney in 1954 to his twin brother Richard, increasing the quality of his brother’s life who was no longer dependent on dialysis. American surgeons Dr. Joseph Murray and Dr. David Hume led the first organ transplantation surgery at the Birmingham Hospital in Boston.

1962 – The first deceased donor kidney transplant

In 1962, the aforementioned surgeons, Dr. Joseph Murray and Dr. David Hume successfully performed the first deceased-donor kidney transplant. After these milestones came the most important years in the history of transplantation medicine.

1963 – The first lung transplant

Dr. James Hardy performed the first successful lung transplantation at the University Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi.

1966 – The first pancreas/kidney transplant

The first pancreas and kidney transplantation surgery was performed by Dr. Richard Lillehei and William Kelly at the University of Minnesota.

1967 – The first liver and heart transplants

Dr. Thomas Starzl successfully performed liver transplantation at the University of Colorado in Denver. During the same year, the first heart transplantation was monitored by Dr. Christian Barnard in the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.

1968 – The first donor card, brain death definition and organ bank

The United States was the first country to establish the Donor Card as a legal document in 50 states, by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. Anyone 18 years of age or older could legally donate their organs upon death.

During the same year, the Harvard Ad Hoc Committee formulated a definition of brain death based on neurological criteria, which formed a foundation to decide upon whose organs can be donated. The first organization for organ preservation and donation, named ‘New England Organ Bank’ was established in Boston.

1983 – Cyclosporine

The American Food and Drug Administration approved cyclosporine, which at that time became the milestone preparation given to patients to prevent transplant rejection.

1984 – Legal act against human organ trafficking

The American Congress passed a very important act with regards to organ trafficking, clearly defining it as illegal. The transplantation network and the potential donators register were established in 1984. The main purpose of the transplantation network was to ensure organ distribution is fair and scientifically grounded.

1988 – Viaspan

The aforementioned Food and Drug Administration approved the medication Viaspan which drastically prolonged the preservation time of a donated liver.

1990 – The highest honor for transplantation medicine, the Nobel prize

The pioneers of transplantation medicine, Dr. Joseph E. Murray and Dr. Donnall Thomas, won the Nobel prize for their immeasurable contribution to this medical field. As previously mentioned, Dr. Murray made the first kidney transplant in 1954 and Dr. Thomas successfully performed the first bone marrow transplant in 1968.

1992 – Baboon to-human liver transplant

The first baboon-to-human transplant was performed in 1992 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The operation was successfully carried out by the doctors Satoru Todo, Andreas Tzakis and John Fung under the supervision of well-known transplantation surgeon Dr. Thomas Starzl.

1993 – Tacrolimus

Tacrolimus, launched in 1993 in Japan and in the following years in Europe, today represents the foundation of immunosupressive treatment for prevention of allograft rejection in transplant patients.

1998 – The first human fist transplant

The first human fist transplant was successfully performed in the French city of Lyon. The very complicated surgical procedure, which lasted for 13 hours, was supervised by the Australian surgeon Dr. Earl Owen and French surgeon Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard.

2005 – world first partial face transplant

An addition to French transplantation medicine’s accomplishments occurred in 2005. In Amiens Dr. Bernard Devauchelle and Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard successfully performed the world’s first partial face transplant to a patient’s face disfigured by a dog bite.

2008 – Death of Dr. Michael DeBakey

One of the world’s most celebrated cardiovascular surgeons, Dr. Michael DeBakey passed away in 2008. In the history of transplantation medicine he will be remembered for introducing the revolutionary medical procedures and devices like the bypass operation, which has helped numerous heart disease patients.

2008 – first baby born from completely transplanted ovary

The recipient has become the first to give birth following a whole ovary transplant from her twin sister.

2014 – first organ transplants from a newborn

In an act of extraordinary generosity the parents have decided to donate six-day-old baby girl’s kidney and liver cells to save lives of two separate recipients. First baby birth from a transplanted uterus done in Sweden.


https://www.hdm.hr/povijest-transplantacije /






Matas AJ, Smith JM, Skeans MA, et al. OPTN/SRTR 2013 Annual Data Report: Kidney. Am J Transplant. 2015;15 Suppl 2:1-34.