year was 1949. Dr. William Bigelow and
Dr. John Callaghan at the Banting and Best
Institute laboratory in Toronto were studying
how extreme cold could slow the human heart
rate thus making it possible to conduct open
heart surgery. Although their work had
led to a number of successful open heart surgeries,
they were stuck on the problem of how to re-start
the heart if it were to stop. Enter
Dr. John Hopps, electrical engineer and National
Research Council researcher.
Developed by Hopps and his team at the National
Research Council in 1950, the first pacemaker
was large (about 30 cm long, and several centimetres
high and wide), the pulses were generated
by vacuum tubes and the entire unit was powered
by 60 Hz household current. Its size
meant that it wasn't of immediate practical
use but with the advent of transistors and
reliable batteries, the package grew smaller
until a pacemaker was successfully implanted
in the chest of a Swedish man in 1957.
They have since become a common medical tool.
The pacemaker, which launched John Hopps'
acclaimed biomedical career, has helped millions
of people lead normal, healthy lives.
Dr. Hopps received numerous honours for his
research, including the Order of Canada, and
he became the acknowledged Father of Biomedical
Engineering in Canada.