thumbnail of Science Reporter; 19; The Heart-lung Chain
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Science Reporter
Episode Number
The Heart-lung Chain
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
In five of every hundred people in the United States, one of the valves of the heart is diseased. If is only in the last seven years [from the time this episode was produced] that the technique of open-heart surgery has made normal lives possible for many of the people so afflicted. The few surgeons who perform the long and difficult operations that involve opening the heart need special tools, the most important of which is the heart-lung machine. This device is essentially a substitute heart that the doctor connects to the main arteries during the operation. The heart machine works steadily, drawing the blood in, oxygenating it, and pumping it through the body, thus leaving the by-passed human heart inactive and free for the work of the surgeon. This week Science Reporter John Fitch goes to the Veteran's Administration Hospital in west Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he joins the inventors of a new portable heart-lung machine - Dr. Ernest Barsamian, the hospital's chief of thoracic surgery and an open-heart specialist, and Dr. Samuel Collins, professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their invention is the subject of this week's episode. To illustrate the surgical techniques involved, Dr. Barsamian shows a film of an open-heart operation performed at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The surgeon first uses a heart-lung machine to by-pass the heart, leaving a dry, inactive field in which to operate. Then he cuts into the heart itself, bares the diseased valve, and removes bits of calcium that has constricted it. The operation shown lasted six hours and was successful. Next, Dr. Barsamian displays a heart-lung machine similar to the one used in the operation and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of its design. Dr. Collins then demonstrates the new portable heat-lung machine. Small and simple in design, this machine can be assembled in a matter of minutes. With it emergency hearth surgery can now be performed on patients who perhaps would have been lost while the more complex conventional machine was being prepared for an operation. Science Reporter is a presentation of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a production of WGBH-TV, Boston for National Educational Television. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Science Reporter is a regularly recurring report on the latest development in all fields of science. It deals with everything from archaeology to space flight. Episodes were prepared at various locations throughout the country with special emphasis on the U.S. space program. The host is John T. Fitch, who was born in Shanghai. His father was YMCA Secretary in China. John entered this country in 1937 and a few years later enrolled at MIT. He volunteered for the Navy in 1944 and was discharged in China where he worked for the Armed Forces Radio Service. In Nanking, he built and operated his own radio station. He returned to the United States in 1949 and earned a degree in electrical engineering at MIT. While attending college, he was host for a number of radio jazz series and continued with WHDH until 1961. He was host for Science Reporter on WGBH-TV beginning in January of 1962. This series was originally recorded in black and white on videotape. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Asset type
Talk Show
Media type
Moving Image
Chicago: “Science Reporter; 19; The Heart-lung Chain,” 1964-01-26, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2018,
MLA: “Science Reporter; 19; The Heart-lung Chain.” 1964-01-26. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2018. <>.
APA: Science Reporter; 19; The Heart-lung Chain. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from