Vivien Theodore Thomas (August 29, 1910 – November 26, 1985) was an African-American surgical technician who developed the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s. He was an assistant to surgeon Alfred Blalock in Blalock's experimental animal laboratory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and later at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Without any education past high school, Thomas rose above poverty and racism to become a cardiac surgery pioneer and a teacher of operative techniques to many of the country's most prominent surgeons. Vivien Thomas was the first African American without a doctorate degree to perform open heart surgery on a white patient in the United States.
Thomas was born in New Iberia, Louisiana. The grandson of a slave, he attended Pearl High School in Nashville in the 1920s. Thomas had hoped to attend college and become a doctor, but the Great Depression derailed his plans. He worked at Fisk University in the summer of 1929 doing carpentry but was laid off in the fall.