Dr. Jarvik Presents Artificial Hearts to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

January 29, 2007
In a special donation ceremony today, Dr. Robert Jarvik, developer of artificial hearts, donated the Jarvik 2000 FlowMaker and loaned the Jarvik 7 artificial heart that was implanted in dentist Barney Clark to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  The objects will be on view in the Museum’s “Treasures of American History” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum beginning Thursday, Feb. 8 for American Heart Month.

"Treasures of American History" closed April 13, 2008.  For information about the Museum's reopening, go to our renovation page.

Jarvik became interested in medicine in 1964, when his father suffered from heart disease and had open-heart surgery. After completing his master’s degree in biomechanics at New York University, he joined the Division of Artificial Organs at the University of Utah, where he earned his medical degree in 1976.

In 1982, Jarvik’s artificial heart design, the Jarvik 7, was implanted in Clark who lived for 112 days with the Jarvik 7. The Jarvik 7, the first permanent artificial heart implanted in a human, is made of polyurethane, polyester, plastic and aluminum. This year marks the 25th anniversary of that historical operation. Jarvik is lending the actual heart implanted in Clark to the Museum.

“Dr. Jarvik’s innovations have helped shape the history of medicine,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the National Museum of American History. “This donation is a wonderful addition to our collections representing American ingenuity and innovations.”

In 1988, Jarvik began developing the Jarvik 2000 FlowMaker, a left ventricular assist device designed to help a weakened heart pump blood through the body. The Jarvik 2000 has been approved for clinical trials by the United States Food and Drug Administration as a means to buy time for heart transplant patients.

In Europe, the Jarvik 2000 has been used successfully for permanent lifetime circulatory support. Peter Houghton of Birmingham, England, had such a pump surgically implanted in his heart more than six and a half years ago and is the longest living patient with such a device.

The Jarvik 2000 donation to the Museum consists of five components. The internal parts, which are surgically implanted, include a battery-powered, axial-flow titanium pump (the size of a “C” battery), which assists the heart. The external parts, which can be worn around the patient’s waist, include the controller and battery pack, as well as two cables. One cable connects the Jarvik 2000 to the controller, and the other cable connects the controller to the battery.

The Jarvik 2000 joins one of the most comprehensive collections of historical artificial organs and assistive devices in the world, including the Liotta-Cooley artificial heart, the first temporary artificial heart implanted in a human, which is featured in the “Treasures of American History” exhibition.

On Feb. 14, Judy Chelnick, associate curator, will discuss the development and history of artificial hearts during a talk in “Treasures of American History” at the National Air and Space Museum (Sixth Street and Independence Avenue Southwest). The noon talk, “A Cure for the Broken Hearted: Artificial Hearts in America—An American Heart Month Event,” will include histories of the Liotta-Cooley heart, Jarvik 7 and the Jarvik 2000.

The Liotta-Cooley heart was the first temporary artificial heart implanted in a human. It was developed by Domingo Liotta and implanted by surgeon Denton Cooley April 4, 1969. The recipient, Haskell Karp, lived for 64 hours with the artificial heart until a human heart was available for transplant.

The National Museum of American History collects and preserves American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the Museum looks at growth and change in the United States. The Museum is closed for major renovations and will re-open in summer 2008. For more information, visit the Museum’s Web site at https://americanhistory.si.edu or call (202) 633-1000, (202) 357-1729 (TTY).