Yacoub was born on 16 November 1935 in Bilbeis, Al Sharqia, Egypt to Coptic family.

He studied at Cairo University and qualified as a doctor with a Bachelor of Medicine, degree in 1957.

He moved to Britain in 1962.

From 1964 to 1968 he was Senior Surgical Registrar, National Heart and Chest Hospitals, London.

Moving to the United States in 1969 he became Instructor and then Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago.

Returning to England, he became a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Harefield Hospital in 1973.

As a visiting professor to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Yacoub, Fabian Udekwu, C. H Anyanwu, FRCS and others performed the first open heart surgery in Nigeria in 1974.

Under Yacoub's leadership, the Harefield Hospital transplant programme began in 1980.

In December 1983 Yacoub performed the UK's first heart and lung transplant at Harefield.

From 1986 to 2006, he held the position of British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine.

Yacoub was knighted in the 1992 New Year Honours .

Having retired from performing surgery for the National Health Service in 2001 at the age of 65, Yacoub continues to act as a consultant and ambassador for the benefits of transplant surgery. He continues to operate on children through his charity, Chain of Hope.

In April 2007, it was reported that a British medical research team led by Yacoub had grown part of a human heart valve from stem cells, a first.

He established the Aswan Heart Center in April 2009.

He was awarded the Order of Merit by HM The Queen in the 2014 New Year Honours.