“The secret to my success is that I bit off more than I could chew and then chewed as fast as I could.”

Paul Hogan


Created by: the (re) institute llc                All Rights Reserved 2011-2015

story: without skipping a beat

- from ham radio to pacemaker -

Wilson Greatbatch, millions thank you, even if they don’t know you.

Greatbatch was a WWII veteran who worked in the psychology department of Cornell University. he was also an avid ham radio operator, a hobby he’d pursued since childhood. he loved gadgets. his job in the psychology department gave him a chance to play with them, attaching them to animals to measure brain waves, for example as part of experiments in the early 1950s.

one day at lunch he happened to sit down with some visiting surgeons and got to talking about irregular heart beats. as author Steven Johnson described it, “something in their description of the ailment triggered an association in Greatbatch’s mind. he imagined the heart as a radio that was failing to transmit or receive a signal properly.”

five years on that happenstance conversation resurfaced for Greatbatch when, by error in fiddling with gadgets, he produced a signal that pulsed like the human heart. soon teaming with a surgeon named William Chardack they produced a device that could shock the heart out of an irregular beat and back to a normal cycle: the first implantable cardiac pacemaker, born of a different view, shifted by a different view, layered with still another different view.

Wilson Greatbatch with an early pacemaker

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