Who Invented the Pacemaker?

The pacemaker was invented by the Canadian John Hopps in 1950. He was an electrical engineer who was doing research on hypothermia. Unlike other inventions, the development and history of the pacemaker is clearly understood.

Hopps’ Invention

Hopps was an engineer at Manitoba University in 1941 when he went to the National Research Council. He was working with radio frequencies and how it can be used to bring up body temperature. It was then he learned that a heart that stops due to cooling can be restarted.

The way to do it was with mechanical or electrical methods. This discovery helped him conceive of the pacemaker. His creation in 1950 though, could not be fitted in the body; it was the external type.

Early Researchers

Event before Hopps’ invention, there were other researchers who had done some experiments. A study of the history of the pacemaker suggests J A McWilliams was the first. In 1889 he made a report in the British Medical Journal of his experiments.

McWilliams said applying electric impulses on the heart led to ventricular contraction. His experiment showed heart beats 70 per minute could be attained by these impulses.

This was followed in 1926 by the findings of Dr. Mark Lidwell of Sydney. He invented an apparatus that strongly resembled the pacemaker. In 1932 the American physiologist Albert Hyman devised an instrument which he called the artificial pacemaker. It was the first time the term had been used. However he never continued with his experiments.

The History of the Pacemaker after Hopps’ Invention

After Hopps’ pacemaker was created, the silicon transistor was invented in 1956. This device helped in reducing the size of the pacemaker. A year later in 1957, Earl Bakken of Minnesota invented a wearable pacemaker.

This device was capable of modifying the pacing heart rate. It was linked to the skin via electrodes. This in turn was connected to the myocardium.

In 1958 an implantable cardiac pacemaker was created in Karolinska University in Sweden. The pacemaker used was created by Rune Elmqvist. The first recipient of an implantable pacemaker was Arne Larson. He received a total of 26 pacemakers in his life before dying in 2001 at the age of 86.

1960s to 1970s

The history of the pacemaker witnessed more inventions and improvements in the 1960s and 1970s. Wilson Greatbatch improved on the Swedish pacemakers when he utilized mercury battery. In 1962, transvenous pacing was used with the pacemaker for the first time. It took place in the US and was also done in France and Sweden.

The 1970s saw the emergence of lithium iodize cells. These replaced the mercury batteries and were longer lasting. The casing of the pacemaker also improved in the 1970s as titanium was used.

The following years saw more improvements take place. Among the inventors and researchers who helped were Rob Anderson, Sheldon Thaler and JG Davis.

Today, the device has become an invaluable tool for heart patients and doctors. Judging by the history of the pacemaker, one can expect more improvements and technological aids to be implemented.

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