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BECK, CLAUDE SCHAEFFER

BECK, CLAUDE SCHAEFFER

BECK, CLAUDE SCHAEFFER (8 Nov. 1894-14 Oct. 1971), a surgeon, achieved worldwide recognition for his work in heart surgery and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Born in Shamokin, Pa., to Simon and Martha Schaeffer Beck, he graduated from Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, Pa.) in 1916, receiving his M.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1921. He trained at Johns Hopkins, New Haven (Conn.), Peter Bent Brigham (Boston), and Lakeside hospitals; and worked under Dr. HARVEY CUSHING at Harvard in 1923-24. Beck came to Cleveland in 1924, joining UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS as resident and Crile Research Fellow in Surgery. He was associate surgeon from 1928 until he retired in 1965. Western Reserve University School of Medicine appointed him demonstrator of surgery in 1924-25; professor of neurosurgery in 1940; and the first professor of cardiovascular surgery in the U.S. from 1952 until 1965. He was a surgical consultant in the Army from 1942-45, receiving the Legion of Merit.

Beck's greatest contributions were in the surgical treatment of heart disease. He assisted Dr. ELLIOT CUTLER in the first mitral valve operations in the 1920s. He performed the first surgical treatment of coronary artery disease in 1935; the first successful defibrillation of the human heart in 1947; the first successful reversal of an otherwise fatal heart attack in 1955; and the first successful removal of a heart tumor. Beck and his colleagues developed cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques they began teaching medical professionals in 1950, training more than 3,000 doctors and nurses in less than 20 years. In 1963, a course in closed-chest cardiopulmonary resuscitation for lay persons was added.

Beck married Ellen Manning in 1928. They had three daughters: Mary Ellen, Kathryn, and Martha.


Claude S. Beck Papers, University Hospitals Archives.

Centennial Celebration: Claude S. Beck, 1894-1971 (University Hospital Archives, 1994).