Wilson Greatbatch, Inventor of Implantable Pacemaker, Dies at 92

Barnaby Feder in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_03 Oct. 02 21.16 Wilson Greatbatch, a professed “humble tinkerer” who, working in his barn in 1958, designed the first practical implantable pacemaker, a device that has preserved millions of lives, died on Tuesday at his home in Williamsville, N.Y. He was 92.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Anne Maciariello.

Mr. Greatbatch patented more than 325 inventions, notably a long-life lithium battery used in a wide range of medical implants. He created tools used in AIDS research and a solar-powered canoe, which he took on a 160-mile voyage on the Finger Lakes in New York to celebrate his 72nd birthday.

In later years, he invested time and money in developing fuels from plants and supporting work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on helium-based fusion reaction for power generation.

He also visited with thousands of schoolchildren to talk about invention, and when his eyesight became too poor for him to read in 2006, he continued to review papers by graduate engineering students on topics that interested him by having his secretary read them aloud.

“I’m beginning to think I may not change the world, but I’m still trying,” Mr. Greatbatch said in a telephone interview in 2007.

He was best known for his pacemaker breakthrough, an example of Pasteur’s observation that “chance favors the prepared mind.”

Mr. Greatbatch’s crucial insight came in 1956, when he was an assistant professor in electrical engineering at the University of Buffalo.

More here.