Wilson Greatbatch expressed an insatiable interest in circuitry and held revolutionary thoughts about how to fix naturally occurring problems in the human body.
Greatbatch was on the hunt for a solution for "heart block," a condition in which a heart does not receive messages from surrounding nerves to pump blood correctly. In contrast to other scientists who used large and cumbersome gadgets to stimulate heart muscle, Greatbatch wanted to devise a smaller implant to get the job done.
Though Greatbatch intended to create a machine to mend a broken heart, his moment of discovery may surprise you. While building an oscillator to record heart beat sounds in animals at Cornell University in 1958, he accidentally grabbed the wrong transistor and installed it in his device. Realizing his mistake, Greatbatch was still curious to see what would happen. Not expecting the oscillator to work, he switched it on and heard a familiar, rhythmic pulsing sound -- a pattern remarkably similar to a heart.
By chance, his invention, known as the pacemaker, was ideal for pulsating signals to the heart. He tested his new creation on animals and fine-tuned the device before implanting it into a human in 1960. In recent years, Greatbatch has been lauded for his achievement -- even if he discovered his solution by chance.
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