Development of the Starr-Edwards heart valve marked a new era in the treatment of valvular heart disease. Until the development of the Starr-Edwards valve, there were no published reports of patients who had lived longer than 3 months with a prosthetic valve in the mitral position. This valve was the result of a unique partnership between a young surgeon, Dr. Albert Starr, and an experienced engineer, Mr. Lowell Edwards. Working as a team, these 2 men developed and successfully implanted the 1st Starr-Edwards valve within less than 2 years of their 1st meeting. Their key to success was their willingness and ability to make repeated modifications to their design to solve each clinical problem as it arose. Their constant focus on the clinical goal aided the rapid transformation of their design from a leaflet valve to a shielded ball valve, and finally to an unshielded ball valve suitable for implantation in a human being. Along the way, they abandoned the idea of imitating the appearance of native valves, in favor of developing valves that would be clinically successful. Their work has provided help and hope for patients who otherwise would have died from the complications of rheumatic heart disease and other valvular disorders for which valve replacement is the only treatment.