‘A Surgeon and a Maverick: The Life and Pioneering Work of Magdi Yacoub’ by Simon Pearson and Fiona Gorman

book cover

Published by the American University in Cairo Press | 3 October 2023 (UK)

A Surgeon and a Maverick is an unprecedented insight into the life and work of one of the world’s greatest medical pioneers: the legendary cardiac surgeon and scientist Magdi Yacoub.

Magdi Yacoub is one of the most recognisable names in modern medicine, and one of the great legends of the NHS’s 75-year history. Famed as one of the pioneers of heart and lung transplantation, he broke new ground with his daring yet immaculately conceived and skilfully performed procedures. Forty years ago this year, he became a household name following his transformation of the treatment of children with congenital heart disease, performing some of the first heart transplants in Britain and the first heart-lung transplants in Europe. At London’s Harefield Hospital, he created the greatest heart transplant centre in the world. Through his lifetime, he treated some of the UK’s leading names from the worlds of politics and entertainment, and developed a friendship with Princess Diana, who sat in on two of his cardiac operations. Among his patients are men and women who are still thriving more than thirty-five years after he gave them new hope.

But such successes were not straightforward. An outsider who succeeded against the odds, at times he clashed with the medical establishment in London, and his techniques pushed the boundaries of discourse in medical ethics.

In this biography, veteran journalists Simon Pearson and Fiona Gorman follow the remarkable life of Magdi Yacoub from his formative years in Egypt, through spectacular success at Cairo University, to his long and distinguished career in Britain, leading up to his knighthood in 1992, and his 2014 awarding of the highest honour in the gift of the Queen, the Order of Merit.

Written with unprecedented access and drawing on extensive interviews and research, the biography recounts how Yacoub pioneered great advances in heart surgery and transformed the lives of so many who previously would not have survived. But this story is also about science, the development of new medical techniques, and a deeper understanding of how the human body works. Today, at an age when most people have long since retired, Yacoub is still pushing the boundaries of scientific understanding and surgical know-how. He is also taking heart surgery to places that until now have had little access to cardiac treatment, developing centres of excellence across Africa, including in Egypt, where his hospital in Aswan has an international reputation, and a new centre is rising in Cairo.

Yacoub’s life is one of triumph and tragedy, success and failure, fierce criticism and high praise—it is also an enthralling journey through the worlds of scientific research and medical politics and ethics at the highest levels.



“This is a story of a life well lived. Sir Magdi Yacoub has transformed medical practice and improved the lives of millions of people. He did this with intellectual creativity, determination, and a deep commitment to serving humanity.”—Minouche Shafik, President, Columbia University

 “From humble beginnings as he followed his surgeon father across Egypt, to achieving the highest honours in the UK, Magdi Yacoub’s story exemplifies the values of hard work, innovation, and humanity. His passion for science and his unrivalled surgical wizardry are only surpassed by his core belief that every human life holds equal value. This book will undoubtedly inspire generations of young people all around the world to fulfil their most ambitious dreams.”—Valentin Fuster, Physician in Chief, Mount Sinai Hospital

A Surgeon and a Maverick recounts how a brilliant and determined young Egyptian became a great pioneer and global champion of cardiac surgery. Through his skills in the operating theatre and his indefatigable energy, he’s directly saved thousands of lives. And through his intensive commitment and compelling advocacy of hospitals and research, his Chain of Hope charity has saved many more—especially in Africa. Magdi Yacoub’s immense achievements richly deserve honour and celebration, and this fine book tells us all why.”—Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and author of If Science is to Save Us

For all publicity enquiries, please contact Amelia Knight or Emily Laidlaw.