A heart that kept million other hearts beating has stopped beating for itself. Thus comes to an end to a great soul who will be remembered in the hearts of humanity for his design of practical implantable pacemaker that saves millions of lives every year.
Wilson Greatbatch’s invention was a result of serendipity. While building a heart rhythm recording device for the Chronic Disease Research Institute at the University of Buffalo, he reached into a box of parts for a resistor to complete the circuitry. The one he pulled out was the wrong size, and when he installed it, the circuit it produced emitted intermittent electrical pulses Mr. Greatbatch immediately associated the timing and rhythm of the pulses with a human heartbeat.
Greatbatch began experiments to shrink the size of the pacemaker to shield it from body fluids. On May 7, 1958, doctors at the Veterans Administration hospital in Buffalo demonstrated that a version he had created, of just two cubic inches, could take control of a dog’s heartbeat.Then as the experiments went on to give the fruitful result, in 1961, the device was implanted in 10 human patients.
But later he found out a crucial limitation in his life saving device. It comprised of zinc-mercury batteries which could drain off in just two years. When lithium iodine design was invented in 1968, he acquired the rights and redesigned his device so that it can work for more than a decade.
Now there are three million people worldwide with pacemaker and every year around 6 lakh pacemakers are implanted.
Let us salute the spirit of Wilson Greatbatch. He died on September 27, 2011.