Papworth Hospital was founded in 1918 as the Cambridgeshire Tuberculosis Colony providing care for discharged soldiers during World War I, as a sanitorium and industrial colony for the treatment of tuberculosis, following a campaign led by Elsbeth Dimsdale. The institution was initially under the direction of Dr (later Sir) Pendrill Varrier-Jones. From the 1950s, surgical facilities developed, beginning with thoracic (chest/lung) surgery and expanding to cardiac surgery. Surgeon Ben Milstein performed the first open-heart surgery at Papworth Hospital in September 1958.
In August 1979, surgeon Terence English performed the first successful heart transplant in the UK at Papworth Hospital. The patient, Keith Castle, lived for over five years following his surgery. In August 1994 a team of doctors carried out a revolutionary operation when 62-year-old Arthur Cornhill was given the world's first permanent battery-operated heart.
Today, Papworth is the UK's largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital and main heart and lung transplant centre.
Original historical documents relating to Papworth Hospital, the Village Settlement and the TB colony are today held by Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies at the County Record Office in Cambridge.