Buffalo’s Inventor: Life-Saving Wilson Greatbach

Another famous life saving inventor from Buffalo is Wilson Greatbatch. His creation of the implantable Pacemaker saved millions of lifes and revolutionized cardiac research and developments.  Greatbatch was an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo for electrical engineering, when he stumbled upon his idea for the pacemaker. The pacemaker works by sending electrical impulses to the heart to replicate its rhythm and control its pulse.

Wilson Greatbach wrote in his memoir, “To ask for a successful experiment, for professional stature, for financial reward or for peer approval is asking to be paid for what should be an act of love.”

The idea came to Greatbach when he was designing a pace recording device at the Chronic Disease Research Institute. There he accidently installed the wrong size in the device causing the circuit to emit intermittent electrical pulses. Greatbach recognized the great possibilities of his discovery and began to test shrinking the equipment and protect it from body fluids. After working on his invention in his barn in Clarence, New York, the Cornell University graduate received the patent for the first functional implantable pacemaker in 1958. According to The American Heart Association, over half a million pacemakers are implanted each year.

Wilson Greatbatch had over 325 patents and was a part of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Another noteworthy patented invention of Greatbach is a long-life lithium battery, which is commonly used in many different types of implants. One of Greatbach’s final patented inventions was a solar-powered canoe, which he journeyed through the Finger Lakes in New York for his 72nd birthday.