Cardiac Surgeon Inspired By Art / by Geoff Harrison

In his series “The Secret Of Drawing”, art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon discusses with prominent British heart surgeon Francis Wells the significance of the anatomical drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci . Wells has used the drawings of Da Vinci to assist him in developing new ways of repairing damaged hearts.

Francis Wells

Francis Wells

Wells uses drawing to not only help him prepare for the details of a heart operation, he produces small drawings on paper using the blood from the chest cavity to give a “replay” of the procedure to his team.

Leonardo was fascinated by how the mitral valve closes and produced a glass bulb in the shape of an aorta and pumped water through it. He put grass seeds in the water so he could trace it’s movement. Through his drawings, Leonardo developed the worlds first artificial heart valve. All this in 1513, when he he had no one to talk to, there was no heart surgery or meaningful medicine, and to most people it wouldn’t have made any sense.


These experiments of Leonardo, and the drawings he produced from them have enabled Wells to work out how to restore the normal opening and closing of the mitral valve.

Francis Wells describes Leonardo as a flat out original thinker and a genius. He has spent many years studying the anatomical drawings of Leonardo and encourages significant interaction between artists and scientists.