About this Collection

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 has made available online a digitized selection of the Henry Swan Papers. This website provides access to the portions of the Henry Swan Papers that are now publicly available. Individuals interested in conducting research using the full collection of Henry Swan Papers should contact the National Library of Medicine.

This Profile is designed to introduce you to the various phases of Swan's scientific career and professional life. Narrative sections available from the navigation bar under "The Story" focus on Swan's life and major scientific contributions to surgical research and education, and his later research on hibernation processes.

Researchers can search the digitized items using the Search box or browse all Documents and Visuals in the collection by selecting "Collection Items" from the navigation bar.