Ian Fleming and the British Heart Foundation

In 1949, at the age of 41 Ian Fleming began experiencing episodes of excruciating chest pain. On other occasions while playing golf he’d have rapid heart palpitations. These symptoms were later thought to be the first indications of heart disease. In 1961, when he was working for the Sunday Times, he suffered a massive heart attack during their weekly conference. He was not quite 53. Forced to take it easy, he spent his time of rest writing stories about a magical car for his son, Caspar. These were later published as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

But on August 11th 1964, Ian Fleming collapsed. This final heart attack killed him in the early hours of August 12th. Two of his brothers also died as a result of heart disease while still in their sixties.

Throughout Ian Fleming’s centenary year in 2008, money was raised for the British Heart Foundation. A charity golf tournament was held at the Royal St George’s at Sandwich in Kent, the club where Ian Fleming frequently played and where he was Captain Elect when he died. A glittering Gala, celebrating Ian Fleming’s life and achievements, took place at the London Palladium on 5th October 2008, raising £90,000 for the British Heart Foundation. Throughout the year, £112,149.42 was raised for the British Heart Foundation by the Ian Fleming Centenary.

Thanks to the support of Ian Fleming’s family, the British Heart Foundation has been able to continue funding Dr Nicola Smart’s ground-breaking work into repairing hearts damaged by heart attack. The Fleming family have raised over £120,000 to support Nicola’s research into Mending Broken Hearts.


Along with her colleagues at the University of Oxford, Nicola is working on a way to teach the heart to heal itself after damage. She has successfully coaxed cells in the outer layer of the heart to respond to heart muscle damage and begin a process of repair that restores heart function. This work in mice has shown great promise – over the past five years Nicola has had two research papers published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. This is the academic equivalent of winning two Oscars and now the team are looking at how they can translate their findings into human studies.

The Fleming family’s contribution to Nicola’s research means that she can continue this work at such a vital stage. Nicola’s studies offer hope of a cure for heart failure where the heart is unable to pump blood – this is often caused by the muscle damage and scarring that can occur after a heart attack. The Fellowship is part of a wider programme of research we’re funding in order to mend broken hearts.

Heart failure affects over three quarters of a million people in the UK today, and for many it causes frightening and prolonged suffering. But now the Mending Broken Hearts Appeal is giving those with heart failure and their families hope for a cure by funding ground breaking research that aims to repair heart muscle damaged by a heart attack. Bringing together the world’s leading scientists in the field of regenerative medicine, the research aims to find a cure for heart failure.