Kantrowitz Experimental Internal Pacemaker

The years immediately following World War II were exciting times in medical technology. Dozens of medical and scientific ideas burst forth after being delayed by the war. Physicians had patients who were dying, and a few doctors who had the skills built whatever devices they needed.
The pacemaker is an electronic device used to regulate the heartbeat. As early as the 1930s scientists began working on large external pacemakers. In 1952 cardiologist Paul Zoll (1911–1999) demonstrated the first successful external pacemaker. From 1952 to 1960, only a few external pacemakers were produced and used because they required patients to remain in the hospital tethered to a bed.
In 1958 Earl Bakken and his partner produced the first successful commercial external pacemaker. A few years later the miniaturization of transistorized circuits allowed for the development of the internal cardiac pacemaker. Electrical engineer Wilson Greatbatch and Dr. William Chardack were among the first to develop and implant an internal pacemaker. In the summer of 1960 at the Veterans Hospital in Buffalo, New York, the Chardack-Greatbatch pacemaker was successfully implanted into a 77-year-old male patient suffering from heart blockage.
The earliest internal pacemakers were very large, and had to be implanted in the abdomen. The electrical leads were inserted into the heart externally. Today pacemakers are one-fourth the size of the earliest mercury battery-powered pacemakers.
This early experimental pacemaker, hermetically sealed in Teflon and powered by five 1.4 volt mercury batteries, was used by Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz around 1962 at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, and the Electronics Laboratory of the General Electric Company. It weighed four ounces and had two transistors, three resistors, and one capacitor. Two Teflon-coated leads were sutured into the myocardium and were controlled by an external control circuit. Adrian Kantrowitz (1918–2008) was a pioneer in the fields of cardiac surgery and implantable mechanical devices. He and his team developed the intra-aortic balloon pump. On December 6, 1967, he became the first doctor in the United States to perform a heart transplant.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1962
overall: 3 in x 1 7/8 in x 1 in; 7.62 cm x 4.7625 cm x 2.54 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Adrian Kantrowitz
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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