Wilson Greatbatch

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Wilson Greatbatch (1919–2011) was a prolific American engineer who invented the pacemaker amongst many other unique pieces of technology. He held over 300 patents.[1] Greatbatch published an autobiography, The Making of the Pacemaker: Celebrating a Lifesaving Invention, in 2000.

Implantable pacemaker[edit]

Wilson Greatbatch was an electrical engineer, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1950 from Cornell University, and a master’s degree (1957) from the University of Buffalo. In 1956 Greatbatch inadvertently fitted a wrong-size resistor into an oscillator he was building to record heartbeats, causing the device to emit intermittent electrical pulses. This incident sparked his idea for the pacemaker, which he patented in 1962 after a few years of tinkering on the device in his barn. Prior to his work Swedish scientists had created an implantable pacemaker, but it failed after only a few hours. Their second attempt lasted only a few days.[2] His pacemaker was a major medical breakthrough credited with saving millions of lives. Greatbatch's original pacemaker had a battery life of only two years was first implanted in a human in 1960. By 1972 Greatbatch had succeeded in extending the life of the battery to about 10 years. Greatbatch was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1986 and in 1990 he was the recipient of the National Medal of Technology. In his later years he experimented with creating a genetically-engineered cure for AIDS and building a nuclear-powered spaceship.[3][4]


  1. Wilson Greatbatch. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  2. Altman, Lawrence (18 Jan 2002). "Arne H. W. Larsson, 86; Had First Internal Pacemaker". New York Times. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  3. "Wilson Greatbatch | American electrical engineer". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  4. Feder, Barnaby (2011-09-28). "Wilson Greatbatch, Inventor of Implantable Pacemaker, Dies at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-03-31.