Medtronic co-founder who created wearable pacemaker dies

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<pEarl Bakken, an electronics repairman who created the first wearable external pacemaker and co-founded one of the world's largest medical device companies, Medtronic, has died. He was 94.

<pBakken, who also commercialized the first implantable pacemaker in 1960, died Sunday at his home in Hawaii<pBakken, who led the company for 40 years, was fitted for his own pacemaker in 2001 and a replacement in 2009.

<pOne of the men who followed Bakken as chief executive, Harvard management professor Bill George, said Bakken made sure that Medtronic's future leaders followed the company's original values, which are laid out in its mission statement.

<p"He was a remarkable human being, a visionary 25 years ahead of his time," George told the Star Tribune. "He was a graduate of the University of Minnesota, the pioneer of one of our strongest industries, and really stood for all the values that Minnesota stands for."

<pBakken and Hermundslie, who was married to the sister of Bakken's wife at the time, formed Medtronic to repair and modify hospital equipment. The company mixed fixing TVs and selling other companies' medical devices with its most important work: custom-made medical devices.

<pIn 1958, University of Minnesota heart surgeon Dr. C. Walton Lillehei asked Bakken to make a battery-powered pacemaker that could keep babies with irregular heartbeats alive. Until then, patients with irregular heartbeats had to plug their cumbersome external devices into wall outlets, limiting their movement and leaving them susceptible to power outages, according to the company.

<pBakken delivered his device to the university's animal lab for testing and was stunned to see it attached to one of Lillehei's pediatric patients the next day.

<pMedtronic has 86,000 employees worldwide. Its operational headquarters are still in the Minneapolis area but a few years ago, it moved its corporate headquarters to Dublin, where it would benefit from Ireland's lower corporate tax rate.

<pBakken is survived by his wife, Doris J. Bakken, his sister, several children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.