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Pacemakers: The Foundation of Minnesota's Medical Industry: Overview

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The Genius of C. Walton Lillehei and the True History of Open Heart Surgeryby Daniel A. Goor, M.D.
New York: Vantage Press, 2007.
MNHS call number: RD 598 .G64 2007

King of Hearts: The True Story of the Maverick Who Pioneered Open-Heart Surgeryby G. Wayne Miller.
New York: Times Books, 2000.
MNHS call number: Reading Room RD 598 .M523 2000

Machines in Our Hearts: The Cardiac Pacemaker, the Implantable Defibrillator, and American Health Care, by Kirk Jeffrey.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
MNHS call number: RC 684 .P3 J444 2001

Pioneers of the Medical Device Industry in Minnesota Oral History Project Interviews.
The project consists of seventeen oral history interviews. The most useful ones for this topic are the interviews with Earl Bakken and C. Walton Lillehei, and an interview with both.
MNHS call number:  Digital Finding Aid
Visit the Medical Device Industry in Minnesota Oral History Project web site for more information about these interviews, including excerpts.

One Man's Full Life, by Earl E. Bakken.
Minneapolis: Medtronic, Inc., 1999.
MNHS call number: HD 9994 .U52 B353 1999


Cross two inventive minds—that of C. Walton Lillehei, Minnesota's pioneering heart surgeon, and that of Earl E. Bakken, electrical engineer, TV repairman, and co-founder of Medtronic, Inc.—and what do you get? The first battery-operated, portable pacemaker, the forerunner of the implantable and highly-refined devices in use today. Their pacemaker was the next evolutionary step in Dr. Lillehei's work in repairing hearts and restoring heart function.

In 1952, after a long process of study, research, experimentation, and practice, Dr. Lillehei performed the first successful open-heart surgery on a human patient who survived. An often-fatal condition—erratic heart rhythm or irregular heartbeat—was his next focus. By applying electric shocks to the heart, he demonstrated that regular rhythm could be restored. That led to the development of an electric pacemaker for use during surgery. It was a large machine whose current had to be drawn from an electrical source.

Enter now Earl E. Bakken, who provided the technical know-how for designing and developing the device that Dr. Lillehei envisioned. In 1957, Bakken produced a portable, wearable, battery-operated heart pacer that catapulted heart repair to prominence and launched an industry, three of whose leading corporations—Medtronic, Inc., St. Jude Medical, and Cardiac Pacemakers/Guidant, Inc.—are now located in the Twin Cities area.

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