Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Denton Cooley was born and raised in Houston, Texas. His father, a dentist, had a thriving practice and was able to invest profitably in real estate. He attended middle school at Lanier Middle School.
Cooley attended the University of Texas and majored in zoology. He was also a star of the varsity basketball squad. Initially, Cooley intended to join his father's dentistry practice, but he became fascinated by surgery after taking a few pre-med courses.
In 1941, Cooley entered the Texas College of Medicine at Galveston, but soon transferred to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. His medical education was provided in part by the Army Specialty Training Program . Cooley obtained his M.D. degree in 1944, and remained at Hopkins as an intern, assisting Dr. Alfred Blalock in the first "blue baby" operation, to correct an infant's congenital heart defect.
In 1946, Cooley was called on to fulfill his obligation to the Army and was put on active duty with the Army Medical Corps . He served as Chief of Surgical Services at the military hospital in Linz, Austria and was discharged in 1948 with the rank of captain. Cooley then returned to Hopkins to complete his residency.
Dr. Cooley finally came home to Houston in 1951, to become an associate professor of surgery at Baylor University College of Medicine and to work at Methodist Hospital, its affiliated institution. At Baylor and Methodist, Cooley began his collaboration with Dr. Michael DeBakey, the great pioneer of vascular surgery. Throughout the 1950s, their collaboration produced great innovations in surgery. While working with De Bakey, Cooley developed a new method of removing aortic aneurysms, the bulging weak spots that sometimes develop in the wall of the artery.
In 1960, Cooley moved his practice from Methodist Hospital to St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital . He also worked at Texas Children's Hospital and continued to teach at Baylor, where he was now a full professor. Meanwhile, Dr. Cooley founded the privately funded Texas Heart Institute .
On May 3, 1968, Dr. Cooley performed his first human heart transplant. The donor was a 15 year-old girl who had committed suicide. Cooley successfully transplanted the heart into a 47 year-old man, who survived for 204 days with the transplanted heart. On April 4, 1969, with no donor heart available for his dying patient, Dr. Cooley took a great risk by implanting an experimental artificial heart. After 65 hours, a human heart became available, and Cooley replaced the artificial heart, but the patient died a day later.
1972 saw the establishment of the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Foundation -- an organization of surgeons trained by Dr. Cooley -- and the dedication of the 29-story Texas Heart Institute building in Houston, where Dr. Cooley has performed as many as 25 heart operations in a single day.
Dr. Cooley married Louise Goldborough Thomas of Baltimore, and the couple raised five daughters. Dr. Cooley spends his limited spare time with his family at his home in Houston.
His numerous honors and awards include:
- The Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award
- The Rene Leriche Prize , the highest honor of the International Surgical Society
- The National Medal of Technology.
- He is the author or co-author of more than 1,300 scientific articles and 12 books.
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