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The Bakken Museum

3537 Zenith Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55416

612-926-3878

History:

The Bakken Museum acquired its name from Earl Bakken. Bakken was born in 1924 and grew up in Minneapolis and received his training in electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota. In 1949 he co-founded Medtronic, which began by repairing medical electronic equipment, but soon began to sell and modify equipment, and to design and produce special-purpose devices. In 1957, working with Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Minnesota, Bakken developed the first wearable, external, battery-powered, transistorized pacemaker.

By 1960, Medtronic had become an established manufacturer of biomedical engineering devices, and in that same year began producing and marketing an implantable, portable pacemaker–that is, one that could be worn internally and that allowed the patient to move about freely. Today, Medtronic is a leader in the medical technology field and the world’s largest manufacturer of cardiac pacemakers.

Once his business was established, Bakken pursued his interest in the historical antecedents of using electricity for therapeutic purposes. In 1969 he asked Dennis Stillings, who worked in the Medtronic library, to see if he could find some old medical electrical machines.” At that time, according to Stillings, there was not much of a market in antique medical-electrical devices, and instead, with Bakken’s agreement, he began looking for early books about the therapeutic uses of electricity. He didn’t know it then, but Stillings would be working over the next decade with national and international antiquarian book and instrument dealers to build the world´s only library and museum collection devoted primarily to medical electricity.

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