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Canadian Inventor: John A. Hopps

Yes that's right!! The pacemaker was invented by a Canadian in Ottawa, our Nations Capital. The pacemaker is a Canadian invention and we Canadians are very proud of that.

Mr. John Hopps is believed to be the inventor of the pacemaker. He was born in Winnipeg in 1919. At the age of 21 he obtained his degree in electrical engineering from the University of Manitoba. At the National Research Council in Ottawa, Ontario he devoted his career to developing cardiovascular instrumentation. At the University of Toronto his colleague Dr. Wilfred Bigelow observed during a hypothermia experiment with a lab animal that the heart stopped when muscular contraction failed at a low temperature, when he prodded the left ventricle he noticed the heart beat. Dr. Bigelow concluded that when the heart was artificially stimulated it behaved in a normal fashion and when he ceased the stimulation the heart also stopped. This helped Mr. Hopps in his development of the pacemaker. Also by observing Dr. Sweet, Mr. Wiggers and Dr. Kouwenhoven while doing experiments on electrical shocks helped John in his creation.

When Hopps returned to his NRC laboratory to produce a pacemaker that would send single electrical pulses at appropriate rates to control a heart at normal or low temperatures. His instrument combined a defibrillator with at pacer to shock the heart in uncoordinated contractions back to a normal rhythm. In the early 1950s the 1st pacemaker was built, at this time it was a very large device and therefore couldnt be implanted in the chest, this led to continuous research on energy requirements and optimal pulse forms. In mid 50s Hopps group built prototypes and supplied a number of them to at least 10 locations in the States. The first pacemaker was implanted in a human was in 1958. Hopps got his degree of doctor in science in 1976 by the University of Manitoba. 30 years after his invention in 1985 it was implanted in his own chest. In 1986 he was honoured with the Distinguished Scientist Award. Also in 1985 he received the IEEE Region 7 award and the ACL McNaughton medal for outstanding contribution of electrical and electronics engineering. In June of 1986 he was awarded with the Order of Canada for his contributions to the sciences in Canada. In 1987 He was accorded the Biomedical Engineering Leadership Award in the States.

Hopps died on November 24th 1998. His wife Eleanor predeceased Hopps (also known as Jack). He left behind a daughter and two sons.

You can order Hopps Book C/O CMBES Secretariat, 134-837 Eastvale Dr. Gloucester, Ontario, Canada K1J 7T5.


Dr. "Jack" Hopps; inventor of the pacemaker

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