Plastic Heart: Smithsonian Honors First-Ever Artificial Heart

Plastic Heart that Beat for Three Days
Plastic heart: The Liotta-Cooley Artificial Heart
National Museum of American History

(CBS) To mark Valentine's Day, the Smithsonian has chosen to honor the world's first artificial heart. Nearly 42 years ago, it kept a dying man alive for three days.

The  Liotta-Cooley Artifical Heart was named for its inventor, Dr. Domingo Liotta, and the surgeon who implanted it, Dr. Denton Cooley. On April 4, 1969, Cooley implanted it in 47-year-old Haskell Karp, who was dying of heart failure - and for whom no donor (human) heart was available.

The three-hour operation was deemed a success. Karp survived for three days with the plastic heart pumping inside him.

Artificial hearts are now widely used around the world. But the Liotta-Cooley Heart was first. It now resides in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., one of more than 137 million artifacts, works of art, and specimens in its collection.