Sure, it could’ve been the ballpoint pen. Or the traffic light for the blind. Or maybe even the Dogo. But it turns out that the greatest Argentine invention of all time (and rightfully so) is the heart bypass surgery, at least according to Google. In a project called Once Upon a Try, the company has announced its list of 400 inventions that changed that helped changed the course of humanity, part of a larger project called Google Arts & Culture (and which you might recall from last year’s “fine art doppelgänger” meme).
Doctor René Favaloro’s invention is the only mention from Argentina – and Latin America in general – to make the cut, which is pretty cool considering it’s listed alongside other rockstars like the radiator, paper, and the toilet.
At the beginning of 1967, Favaloro began to consider the possibility of using the saphenous vein in coronary surgery. The basic principle was to bypass a diseased (obstructed) segment in a coronary artery in order to deliver blood flow distally. The standardization of this technique, called coronary artery bypass surgery, was the fundamental work of his career, and ensured that his prestige would transcend the limits of his country, as the procedure radically changed the treatment of coronary disease.
Favaloro is also renowned for creating the Favarolo Foundation in 1975 that combined medical attention, research and education. It is one of the largest institutions dedicated to cardiology in the Americas to date. He also opened the Favaloro Foundation Institute of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery, a non-profit organization that would go on to offer specialized services of cardiology with a firm belief in inclusion for the less privileged. It’s been said that Favarolo himself made it a point of honor to operate on indigent patients on a daily basis.
Beyond exploring the field of medical innovation, Favaloro was concerned with tackling broader societal issues, such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, and violence. As Argentina’s economic crisis reached a boiling point toward the end of the 90s, the Favaloro Foundation had racked up US $18 million in debt. Several appeals to the government for aid went unheard, and on July 29, 2000 Dr. Favaloro took his own life at the age of 77.
To form this new digital exhibition, the Google Cultural Institute collected more than 200,000 digitized historical records, artifacts and videos, which are now online so that everyone, from anywhere in the world, can reach them. To do this, it partnered with 112 institutions from 23 countries and received original material from the organizations involved with each of the inventions and discoveries like NASA, CERN, the Science Museum of the United Kingdom, the German Museum, Torres Quevedo Museum, the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology and, of course, the Favaloro Foundation.
In Favaloro’s case, users are able to travel with Street View technology through the corridors of the National University of La Plata, where he studied, and the Cleveland Clinic, where he applied his technique for the first time. Favaloro’s story also includes audios and videos of the doctor, as well as his mentions of his most standout publications.
It is truly an immersive experience into the career of one of the most important Argentines in history and a matter of pride for all. To learn more about the project, you can visit Google’s official Arts & Culture website.