Created by the World Heart Federation to bring attention to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), the leading cause of death worldwide, each year on Sept. 29, World Heart Day invites people everywhere to take action and promote heart health.
At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we have the privilege of honoring many innovators whose contributions have helped those with CVDs and other heart-related illnesses. We invite you to celebrate World Heart Day with us by learning more about a few of these incredible Inductees.
Pharmacologists John Baer, Karl Beyer Jr., and organic chemists James Sprague and Frederick Novello were part of a team that pioneered thiazide diuretics, the first class of drugs to safely and effectively treat hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Marketed and first sold as chlorothiazide in 1958, this was a safe and effective alternative to previous hypertension drugs, which were difficult to use and had potentially toxic side effects. Only one year later in 1959, the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health reported declining death rates resulting from cardiac events, which the organizations partially attributed to the release of thiazide diuretics. Today, this class of drugs remains in use as a first-line treatment for hypertension and related heart problems, and to decrease edema.
Trained as an electrical engineer, Wilson Greatbatch was interested in combining insights from many different areas including medical electronics, agricultural genetics and electrochemistry. It was the combination of insights from these disparate fields that enabled him to invent the implantable pacemaker, a small device that can regulate a person’s heartbeat and prevent it from pumping too slowly. Greatbatch earned a patent for the first implantable cardiac pacemaker, and heart patient survival rates for those with these devices began to become comparable to those of a healthy population of a similar age. In addition to his induction into NIHF, Greatbatch was also a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and held more than 300 patents.
Stephen Heilman, Alois A. Langer, Michel Mirowski and Morton Mower created the automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a battery-powered device placed under the skin that both tracks a person’s heartbeat and sends an electric shock to the heart to prevent it from beating too fast or erratically. About 800,000 people in the United States use ICDs, and the device has been shown to be 99% effective in treating sudden cardiac arrest. Research has also shown that ICDs can extend the lives of patients suffering from life-threatening heart conditions, and one study found that patients who used an ICD for eight years had a “37 percent lower chance of death from any cause than those without one.”
Energy storage expert Esther Takeuchi led efforts to invent and refine lithium/silver vanadium oxide (Li/SVO) battery technology that today is utilized in the majority of today’s ICDs. ICDs are able to function in part thanks to their high energy density batteries that support intermittent high-power pulses. Takeuchi’s innovation includes the implementation of cathodes that employ both silver and vanadium (as opposed to just one metal) and the ability for the ICD to monitor the levels of the discharge so that patients know when the battery needs to be replaced. Today, Takeuchi is a distinguished professor at Stony Brook University where she teaches in the materials and chemical engineering department. In addition to her 2011 induction into NIHF, she is the recipient of the 2008 National Medal of Technology and Innovation and has earned over 150 U.S. patents.
Learn More About Our Revolutionary Inductees
To learn about more of our amazing NIHF Inductees, we invite you to visit our website.