John Hopps Who Invented The Pacemaker

Dr. John A. Hopps, who invented of the first heart pacemaker, is credited for saving many a life with this fine invention...

John Hopps, a Canadian, invented the first heart pacemaker. At the age of 21, he joined the National Research Council in 1941 after training at the University of Manitoba as an electrical engineer. In 1949, during his time with the National Research Council, he became interested in hypothermia and this is where he started extensive research. In his testing, he attempted to use radio frequency to restore body temperature, and made a discovery that was unexpected. He found that by using mechanical means the heart could be artificially started again after it was exposed to a cooling process. With this discovery, Hopps was able to build the first pacemaker in 1950. Hopps encountered the problem that his invention was too large to be implanted in humans.

Dr. Hopps never imagined he would be involved in the creation of the pacemaker. The device that Hopps invented produced an electrical impulse to stop ventricular fibrillation. This experiment was done while Hopps at the University of Toronto's Department of Surgery in 1949. He placed an electrode on an open chest of a dog through the heart. Along with this he placed another electrode on the dog's body surface.

The world's first cardiac pacemaker was introduced to the world in early 1950. At this point in history, transvenous catheter electrodes were used. Surprisingly enough, they are still used today for implantable pacemakers. In early 1950, the catheter electrodes relied on vacuum tubes. About a decade later, transistors were used to help decrease the size of the pacemakers.



In 1958, the first pacemaker was implanted in a human body. Unfortunately in 1984, Dr. Hopps had to have a pacemaker in order to regulate his heart. At this point in time, this invention was considered to be routine surgery. Thirteen years later, Hopps received his second pacemaker. The first pacemaker had lost its charge and was showing signs of weakness. Hopps insisted to the doctors that the pacemaker was reaching the end of its life and random impulses were being detected.

Dr. Hopps retired in 1979. While working with school children he continued his writing on biomedical engineering. He was also involved in serving his community by participating in various activities. This entailed Hopps serving as President of the Ontario Heart Foundation (Ottawa Chapter).

Hopps died on November 24th, 1998. The Canadian company Mitel is the world's largest manufacturer for the inside parts of the pacemaker. Dr. Hopps was known to most people as "˜Jack'. He became known as the Father of Biomedical Engineering. With his invention he improved the lives of millions of people around the world. His collaboration with Dr. W.G. Bigelow and Dr. J.C. Callahan produced the invention of the world's first cardiac pacemaker.

Dr. Hopps is the author of a book published in 1985 entitled, "Passing Pulses, the Pacemaker and Medical Engineering: A Canadian Story". Hopps made the statement that he is amazed how his device has been refined with new technology.

His wife, Eleanor, predeceased Jack. He also left behind a daughter and two sons. Not only is he missed by his family, but also by his colleagues.

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