Greatbatch, pacemaker inventor, dies

GreatbatchWilson Greatbatch '50, whose invention of the implantable cardiac pacemaker saved millions lives since its introduction in 1960, died Sept. 27 at age 92.

Greatbatch was born in Buffalo in 1919. He served in the Navy during World War II as a rear gunner in dive bombers, then studied electrical engineering at Cornell. As a SUNY Buffalo graduate student he conducted experiments at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Hospital that led to the pacemaker.

Greatbatch had three of his five children as a Cornell student and worked several jobs to support his family: running the WHCU transmitter, working at the psychology department's Animal Behavior Farm in Varna and building amplifiers for the Arecibo radiotelescope.

He held 150 patents, founded numerous companies and was inducted into the National Inventors' Hall of Fame in 1988. In 1983, his pacemaker was chosen by the National Society of Professional Engineering as one of the 10 greatest engineering contributions to society in the previous 50 years.

Greatbatch also served on the Cornell University Council and as an adjunct professor of engineering.

- Joe Wilensky