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Australia's Top 10 Inventions: The Artificial Pacemaker

To celebrate Australia Day this week, we’re looking at some of the best inventions to ever come out of our sunburnt country. Today, we pay homage to Dr Mark C Lidwill, who alongside physicist Edgar H Booth created the world’s first artificial pacemaker.

in the 1890s, medical researchers discovered that the human heart could be contracted by applying an electrical impulse to it. But it took a couple of decades and a bit of Australian ingenuity to create the world’s first artificial pacemaker.

In 1926, Dr Mark C Lidwill, an anaesthesiologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, with a bit of help from physicist Edgar Booth from Sydney University, made a device that was both portable and could be plugged directly into a lighting point. It was rudimentary at best. According to Wikipedia:

“One pole was applied to a skin pad soaked in strong salt solution” while the other pole “consisted of a needle insulated except at its point, and was plunged into the appropriate cardiac chamber”.

The device was capable of making the heart beat between 80 to 120 times a minute with voltages between 1.5 and 120 volts.

While it was nowhere near as compact or discreet as today’s pacemakers, it still did the job, reportedly saving the life of a stillborn infant in 1928, whose heart continued beating after 10 minutes with the pacemaker. Because of that and the countless other lives that have been saved thanks to artificial pacemakers, you have to give credit to Dr Lidwill for his groundbreaking invention.


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