Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Programmable Medical Devices
Physicist Dr. Robert E. Fischell has earned nearly 200 U.S. and international
patents over the course of his career, but he insists that his inventing proficiency
happened by accident.
Fischell came from a modest backgroundhis father never completed any
education beyond the 8th grade. After Fischell's graduation from college in
1951, he told his father he was going to go to the University
of Maryland to do graduate work in physics. In response to his father's
question about the meaning of physics, Fischell told him that it was a science
concerned with natural phenomena such as electricity, magnetism, light, heat,
atoms and molecules.
Later, as a professor at Johns Hopkins University,
Dr. Fischell happened to be reading an academic journal when he saw an advertisement
for a pacemaker battery that could last for up to two years before it needed
to be replaced Two years of power was not enough to impress him. He did some
research and finally declared to a cardiologist friend of his at Johns Hopkins
that he could design a pacemaker that would never wear outone that would
be rechargable through an interior nickel cadmium cell that could last indefinitely.
The rest, as they say, is history: Dr. Fischell went on to become a career
inventor of medical device technologies. Eventually, he left Johns Hopkins to
pursue his inventing interests privately, starting up several companies in the
process, including MedInTec, Inc., Cathco, Inc., IsoStent, Inc. and NeuroPace,
Dr. Fischell's work has resulted in the invention of a large variety of medical
device improvements and technologies, from new and improved patterns for stents,
(tiny tubes placed over balloon catheters and inserted into obstructed arteries
to allow bloodflow), the first implantable insulin pump, and, of course, the
first rechargeable pacemaker.
Most recently, Frischell has served as president and chairman of the board
of directors for MedInTec in Dayton, Maryland. Some of his many awards and honors
include the 1984 Inventor of the Year Award and membership in the Space Technology
Hall of Fame. He also has appointments at the Yale
University and Johns Hopkins University Schools of Medicine.