Historical timeline: 1852-1967

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1856 Germany Rudolf Virchow, a Pole, believed that disease occurred at cellular level, and also described cerebral emboli causing stroke. Virchow also emphasized the societal causes of disease as "disturbances of human culture".

1867 England Lauder Brunton, pharmacologist, discovered that amyl nitrite relieved angina.

1872 France Gabriel Lippmann invented the capillary electrometer, the precursor of the electrocardiograph.

1893 Holland Willem Einthoven (1860–1927) introduced the term electrocardiogram or ECG/EKG; distinguished five deflections – PQRST (1895); constructed the first electrocardiograph in 1901, which weighed 270 kg, occupied two rooms and required five people to operate it; transmitted the first ECG from hospital to his laboratory 1.5 km away via telephone cable (in 1905); published the first normal and abnormal ECGs (1906) and won the Nobel Prize (1924).

1895 Germany Physicist Wilhem Konrad Roentgen (1845–1923) discovered X-rays, which are still used to visualize the heart.

1896 Italy Scipione Riva-Rocci invented the sphygmomanometer to measure blood pressure.

1897 The introduction of modern aspirin. In one of life’s little ironies, Bayer’s first aspirin advertisements said that the drug did “not affect the heart”.

1906 Germany M. Cremer, first oesophageal ECG by a professional sword swallower. First fetal ECG from the abdominal surface of a pregnant woman.

1907 England First case report of atrial fibrillation by Arthur Cushny, professor of pharmacology at University College, London.

1912 James B. Herrick described heart disease resulting from hardening of the arteries.

1912 First human cardiac catheterization (no X-ray visualization) by Frizt Bleichroeder, E. Unger and W. Loeb.

1915 USA Establishment of organization in New York City, which became the American Heart Association.

1920 USA First ECG of acute myocardial infarction by Harold Pardee.

1923 USA First operative widening of scarred cardiac valve by E. Cutler and S.A. Levine.

1925 United Kingdom Widening of narrowed mitral valve by Souter, who stretched the valve ring with his fingers.

1928 United Kingdom Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which is used to treat rheumatic fever.

1928 "Apoplexy" divided into categories based on the cause of the blood vessel problem, and replaced by the term "cerebral vascular accident (CVA)".

1929 Germany First documented right heart catheterization in human by Werner Forssmann using radiographic techniques.

1931 USA First description of the use of exercise to provoke attacks of angina pectoris by Charles Wolferth and Francis Wood.

1931 USA First artificial cardiac pacemaker, which stimulated the heart by transthoracic needle, developed by Dr Albert Hyman.

1937 USA First prototype heartlung machine built by physician John Heysham Gibbon, and tested on animals. He performed the first human open heart operation in 1953 using the machine.

1938 USA First human heart surgery, first surgical correction of a congenital heart defect: closure of patent ductus arteriosus performed by surgeon Robert E. Gross.

1944 China First repair of patent ductus arteriosus in China.

1944 USA First operation on "blue baby" (Fallot’s tetralogy) at Johns Hopkins.

1944 USA/Sweden First repair of coarctation of aorta by Crafoord and Grosse.

1947 USA First defibrillation of human heart during cardiac surgery, by Claude Beck in Cleveland.

1948 USA "Blind finger" closed heart surgery for mitral stenosis reintroduced by Dr Dwight Harken and Dr Charles Bailey.

1948 USA California physician Lawrence Craven noticed that 400 of his male patients who took aspirin for two years had no heart attacks. By 1956, he had chronicled the health of 8000 patients taking aspirin and found no heart attacks in the group.

1948 USA Start of the Framingham Heart Study where, for the first time, a large cohort of healthy men and women were studied prospectively.

1949 USA Portable Holter Monitor invented by Norman Jeff Holter to record ambulatory ECG.

1950 The International Society of Cardiology established, later joined with International Cardiology Federation and renamed World Heart Federation.

1950 Canada First pacemaker invented by John Hopps.

1952 USA First prosthetic valve implanted in aorta by surgeon Charles Hufnagel.

1952 USA First successful human open heart surgery under hypothermia by Walton Lillehei and John Lewis, who implanted the first synthetic valve in a five-year-old girl who had been born with an atrioseptal defect (hole in her heart).

1952 USA External cardiac pacemaker designed by Paul Zoll.

1953 USA First demonstrated coronary artery disease among young US soldiers killed in action in Korea (later observed in the casualties of the Viet Nam War too) by William F. Enos, Robert H. Holmes and James Beyer.

1954 United Kingdom First carotid endarterectomy by Eastcott, Pickering and Rob.

1954 India Called on WHO to address the coming epidemic of cardiovascular disease in developing countries.

1955 United Kingdom First reported mitral valve replacement by Judson Chesterman.

1950s Minimization of bias for the reliable assessment of cardiovascular treatments by introduction of randomization into clinical trials (at instigation of Sir Austin Bradford Hill).

1956 USA First report of the successful ending of ventricular fibrillation in humans by externally applied countershock published by Dr Paul Zoll.

1957 First battery-powered external pacemaker.

1958 USA Seymour Furman inserted a pacemaker in a patient who lived for 96 days.

1958 Sweden Internal long-term cardiac pacing by Åke Senning.

1958 Start of development of a selective coronary angiography procedure by Mason Sones.

1959 WHO established Cardiovascular Diseases programme.

1960s High blood pressure identified as a treatable risk factor for stroke.

1960 USA First Coronary Care Unit in Bethany, Kansas.

1960 Framingham, USA Cigarette smoking found to increase the risk of heart disease.

1960 USA First replacement of heart valve with Starr-Edwards mechanical valve, developed by Albert Starr and Lowell Edwards.

1961 USA Framingham Heart Study investigators coined the term "risk factors" for the development of coronary heart disease. High cholesterol level, blood pressure, and electrocardiogram abnormalities found to increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

1961 USA First use of external cardiac massage to restart a heart by J.R. Jude.

1961 USA First direct current defibrillation with external paddles by Bernard Lown and Barough Berkowitz.

1960s First human implant of totally implantable pacemaker.

1964 USA First transluminal angioplasty performed on a narrowed artery in the leg by Charles T. Dotter.

1965 USA Michael DeBakey and Adrian Kantrowitz implanted mechanical devices to help a diseased heart.

1967 South Africa First whole heart transplant from one person to another by Dr Christiaan Barnard.

1967 USA Saphenous vein coronary bypass graft by Dr Rene Favaloro.

1967 Framingham, USA Physical inactivity and obesity found to increase the risk of heart disease.