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About the book
  • Published: 16 July 2018
  • ISBN: 9781784703257
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $22.99

The Matter of the Heart

A History of the Heart in Eleven Operations


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The story of the human heart told through 11 ground-breaking operations

'Thrilling... The “dizzying” story of heart surgery is every bit as important as that of the nuclear, computer or rocket ages. And now it has been given the history it deserves' James McConnachie, Sunday Times
For thousands of years the human heart remained the deepest of mysteries; both home to the soul and an organ too complex to touch, let alone operate on. Then, in the late nineteenth century, medics began going where no one had dared go before.

In eleven landmark operations, Thomas Morris tells us stories of triumph, reckless bravery, swaggering arrogance, jealousy and rivalry, and incredible ingenuity, from the trail-blazing ‘blue baby’ procedure to the first human heart transplant. The Matter of the Heart gives us a view over the surgeon’s shoulder, showing us the heart’s inner workings and failings. It describes both a human story and a history of risk-taking that has ultimately saved millions of lives.

  • Pub date: 16 July 2018
  • ISBN: 9781784703257
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $22.99

About the Author

Thomas Morris

Thomas Morris worked for the BBC for seventeen years making programmes for Radio 4 and Radio 3. For five years he was the producer of In Our Time, and previously worked on Front Row, Open Book and The Film Programme. His freelance journalism has appeared in publications including The Times, The Lancet and The Cricketer. In 2015 he was awarded a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for non-fiction. He lives in London.

Also by Thomas Morris

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Praise for The Matter of the Heart

“Thrilling ... Significant and often immersive… The “dizzying” story of heart surgery is every bit as important as that of the nuclear, computer or rocket ages. And now it has been given the history it deserves”

James McConnachie, Sunday Times

“The research that has gone into this book is simply staggering, and Morris has achieved much more than a history of heart operations… It is a study of human beings driven by Olympian ambition and bottomless curiosity. It is, in the end, a book about wonder. And a wonderful book.”

Frances Wilson, Daily Telegraph, 5 stars *****

“Gripping... The Matter of the Heart details the breathtaking advances that have been made in the past 100 years.”

John Crace, Guardian

“Thomas Morris has written not a history of medical ideas about the heart, but a history of heart surgery... The stories come quickly: fluent, wry, admiring ... Morris has made something unique: a history less of people than of procedures, but lively, enthusiastic and brimming with detail ... anything but boring.”

Gavin Francis, New Statesman

“I recommend the book to all who are fascinated by the medical world...a thoroughly engaging history.”

Wall Street Journal

“Fascinating and compelling... There are also remarkable tales of survival against the odds perseverance, ingenuity and awe-inspiring feats... Morris deftly constructs an engaging narrative that covers a vast range of material”

Manjit Kumar, Literary Review

“With the cut and thrust of cardiac surgery now demystified, we forget that venturing into the thoracic cavity once seemed as daunting as polar exploration. Or more so: as Thomas Morris reveals in this stirring chronicle, even touching a beating heart was long viewed as impossible… Told through 11 pivotal operations, it's a tale of ingenuity... It's rich, too, in alarming details — not least, the injections of strychnine and whisky that featured in early surgery”

Barbara Kiser, Nature

“Thomas Morris does for the history of cardiac surgery what The Right Stuff and Hidden Figures did for the space race... The book is - appropriately - pulse-thumpingly gripping and will be enjoyed by anyone who, in any sense of the phrase, has a heart.”

Mark Lawson

“Tremendous. An exhilarating sweep through ancient history and contemporary practice in surgery of the heart. It’s rich in extraordinary detail and stories that will amaze you. A wonderful book.”

Melvyn Bragg

“Standing outside this precious and pressured world, Morris provides an even-handed and honest survey of the pioneers and their breakthroughs… intelligent”

Wendy Moore, The Times

“[A] new book on the history of pioneering heart operations. The story begins with a second world war US army surgeon working to remove shrapnel from soldiers' chests in a shed in the Cotswolds and ends with the surreal prospect of the 3D printing of hearts.”

Giles Fraser, Guardian

“Magnificent… Thomas Morris provides us with a thoughtful, engaging and rigorous account of how cardiac surgeons through history have sought to undo the ravages wrought on the heart… The results are a triumph of both the human imagination, emotional resilience and supreme self-confidence… It is peppered with vibrant anecdotes as well as biographical accounts of the individuals who made these important contributions”

Adrian Woolfson, Spectator

“Skillfully detailed… He spares us nothing and in gripping stories delivers everything you would want to know about his superbly chosen subject”

Melvyn Bragg's Summer Reads, Observer

“[Thomas Morris] succeeds where many such experts have failed in distilling the complexity of this organ into a highly readable and fascinating narrative… in 350 easy-to-read pages ... [he] captur[es] the majesty and pace of more than 80 years of scientific innovation ... the degree to which this book has been researched is breathtaking.”

David Warriner, Independent Nurse

“A history of heart surgery reveals how horrifyingly improvised early operations were.”

Sunday Times MUST READ

“Crammed full of compelling characters and dramatic scenes, this book gets to the heart of a fascinating matter and demonstrates why it matters so much.”

Thomas Wright, author of CIRCULATION


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