Earl E. Bakken

First Battery-Powered, Wearable Pacemaker

Earl E. Bakken

Bakken was fascinated as a child by the electric shocks used in the 1931 monster film Frankenstein. Among his childhood inventions were a telephone system stretching to a friend’s house, a radio, and a robot. He became an electrical engineer and co-founded Medtronic in 1949. Through his work designing and repairing electronic equipment in hospitals, he became known by the medical community. He was asked by C. Walton (Walt) Lillehei, a pioneer in open heart surgery on children, to solve the problem of power failures affecting pacemakers during blackouts. Bakken developed the first external, wearable, battery-powered, transistorized heart pacemaker, and commercialized the first implantable pacemaker in 1960.

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