Wits benefactor Sir Terence English (BSc Eng Mining 1954, honorary DSc Mining 2008), a mining engineering graduate who performed Britain’s first successful heart transplant in 1979 has published his autobiography, Follow Your Star: From Mining to Heart Transplants – A Surgeon’s Story (AuthorHouse, 2011).
The story covers English’s early years in South Africa, including his work as a diamond-driller in Rhodesia and qualifying as a mining engineer before deciding to become a doctor. Prior to his medical studies, he engaged in mining exploration in Northern Québec and the Yukon, to which he frequently returned. His training in cardiac surgery coincided with developments in this field, during which his engineering background proved useful. The central part of this story is an account of the trials and tribulations associated with English’s efforts to establish a heart transplant programme in Britain. A theme throughout the autobiography is that of “follow your star” which, for English, meant being prepared to change direction if a brighter star appeared on the horizon. This lead to several false starts along the way, but most provided valuable and enriching experiences.