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The Henry Swan Papers

[Portrait of Henry Swan]. [ca. 1981].
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American surgeon Henry Swan II (1913-1996) pioneered the use of hypothermia--cooling patients to a very low body temperature--to make possible the first open-heart surgeries. Between 1953 and 1963, while heart-lung bypass technology was still being perfected, Swan performed hundreds of successful cardiac repairs using hypothermia to temporarily stop the heart. His clinical work built on his extensive surgical lab research, which made major contributions to medical understanding of the physiological and metabolic processes of hypothermia, shock, and hemorrhage. These studies ultimately led him to explore the mechanisms of hibernation and other dormant states during his later career. Swan was also an outstanding medical educator; as the first full-time chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Colorado, he transformed it into a first-class surgical program. The National Library of Medicine is the repository for the Henry Swan Papers, which range from 1915 to 2009. The collection contains surgery records, correspondence, reprints, book drafts, speeches, reports, and biographical material.

As part of its Profiles in Science project, the National Library of Medicine is digitizing and making available over the World Wide Web a selection of the Henry Swan Papers, for use by educators and researchers. This site provides access to the portions of the Henry Swan Papers that are now publicly available. Individuals interested in conducting research in the Henry Swan Papers are invited to contact the National Library of Medicine.

This online Exhibit is designed to introduce you to the various phases of Swan's medical career and professional life. It is divided into sections that focus on Swan's life and major contributions to surgical research and education, and his later research on hibernation processes. We suggest that new visitors begin with this exhibit, which includes a small selection of documents and visuals, organized within these sections. Each section begins with a "Background Narrative," which leads to "Documents" and "Visuals."

Visitors may access additional materials through Search on the navigation bar. They may also view the materials alphabetically or chronologically by choosing Browse on the navigation bar. Documents and visuals in these lists are arranged by format and then either alphabetically by title or chronologically.