Lemelson Center: History and Future of Implant Technology :: Smithsonian Lemelson Center
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Smithsonian Beanie Illustration
About Us
« Back to "Press Room" main page

Press Release


Media Only:
Paul Rosenthal (202) 633-3656
Stephanie Montgomery (202) 633-3129

Meet Dr. Robert Jarvik, a Pioneer in Artificial Heart Technology

Someone you love is waiting for a heart transplant but may not live long enough to receive a donated human heart. Your doctor suggests an artificial heart. What would you do? With one in 10 Americans now living with artificial body parts, new inventions are greatly altering the landscape within our bodies. On Oct. 22 and 23, explore how wearable and implantable devices are changing our lives during “Building Bionic Bodies” -- two days of free demonstrations, discussions and family activities at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. On Oct. 23, meet Dr. Robert Jarvik, whose ground-breaking work with cardiac implants since the 1970’s continues today.

“Building Bionic Bodies,” sponsored by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, brings you the inventors and experts most familiar with these devices to examine the physical, ethical, social and emotional consequences of implant technology. A variety of activities will allow people of all ages to explore the boundaries between humans and machines. This program is held in conjunction with the Lemelson Center’s “Inventing Ourselves” exhibit, which explores whether there is anything about humans that technology cannot mimic, replace or alter. All programs and activities will take place on the first floor of the National Museum of American History. For information on registration and free tickets, call 202-633-1000 (voice), 202-357-1563 (TTY).

Dr. Robert Jarvik made medical history in the early 1980s when the Jarvik-7 became the world’s first permanently implantable artificial heart. In “Portrait of Invention” on Oct. 23 at 1:00 p.m., Dr. Jarvik will speak about his career as an inventor and his contributions to innovations in implantable cardiac devices.

While the Jarvik-7 kept patients alive, it was not portable. Still, this pioneering invention opened the door to the development of other devices, such as the AbioCor Total Artificial Heart, which someday may become a routine device for helping patients with imminent heart failure live longer and provide a reasonable quality of life. Dr. Robert Kung, lead engineer in the development of the AbioCor, will join medical history and bioethics experts for “Mending Broken Hearts,” a “café style” discussion on Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. The audience will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their opinions anonymously and in real time through wireless handheld devices. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

High school science students and college students planning careers in medicine and bioengineering can participate in “Saving Face,” a hands-on workshop introducing facial reconstructive surgery techniques and innovations. Teams of participants (ages 15 and older) will work with experts to perform “surgical” treatments on plastic human skulls by applying various implantable devices. “Saving Face” will be held on Oct. 23 at 2:00 p.m.

Additional activities on Oct. 23 from noon to 4:30 p.m. are:

  • Meet the Bionic Skeletons – Yorick, the bionic skeleton, comes out of storage to join his 21st-century counterparts, Hamlet and Ophelia, for a demonstration of implantable devices from yesterday and today
  • Inventors’ Expo – Student inventors display their implantable and wearable prototype devices
  • Invention Exploration – Museum staff help participants explore our collection
  • Extrasensory You – young people can design their own “artificial parts” during this 30-minute family workshop



The Smithsonian's Lemelson Center is dedicated to exploring invention in history and encouraging inventive creativity in young people. The Center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy established by one of the country's most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. The Lemelson Center is located in the National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. The nearest Metro stations are Federal Triangle and Smithsonian on the Orange/Blue lines. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except on Dec. 25. Admission is free.
:: Home :: About Us :: Centerpieces :: Events :: Resources :: Video & Audio ::
:: Press Room :: Blog :: Newsletter :: Site Map :: Facebook :: Flickr :: Twitter ::