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Wilson Greatbatch, Cardiac Pacemaker Inventor
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Greatbatch’s original circuit was laid out on a file folder


Greatbatch’s original circuit was laid out on a file folder



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Greatbatch with electronics equipment in his barn workshop
Greatbatch with electronics equipment in his barn workshop











What Did Greatbatch Do With His New Discovery?

Greatbatch kept working on the pacemaker in his backyard workshop--a barn. He made improvements and experimented with various materials and designs.

With surgeon William Chardack, Greatbatch conducted animal and then human tests. By 1960 they were implanting pacemakers that lasted for longer than a year--up to 30 years, in one case.

Soon, the biggest problem became the pacemaker battery. Patients had to undergo surgery every two years just to get new batteries. So Greatbatch developed a special lithium battery that lasts 10 years or more, and started a company to make them. His batteries now power most of the world’s estimated three million pacemakers.

Greatbatch says of his work:
“I am a proponent of the big jump. I like to throw something together, see if it works, and go on from there. I usually don’t know what I am going to be doing until I do it.

“If I didn’t [invent the pacemaker], someone else would have. Most new developments are like that--not somebody getting a Eureka! flash.

“Don’t fear failure. Don’t crave success. The reward is not in the results but rather in the doing.”

Next: Stephanie Kwolek, Kevlar® Inventor ›





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