How Otis Boykin's Invention Put the 'Pace' in Pacemakers

Trivia Tuesday: The pacemaker would not be what it is today without what critical contribution from Otis Boykin?

Amanda Pedersen

June 17, 2024

1 Min Read
Surgeon holds a cardiac pacemaker in a gloved hand (close up of surgeon's hand holding the pacemaker)
Image credit: Peter Dazeley / The Image Bank via Getty Images

When most people in medtech think of the early days of pacemaker development, they often think of Earl Bakken, Medtronic's co-founder credited with the development of the first battery-operated external pacemaker. But the industry owes a great deal of credit to Otis Boykin, an African American inventor, for inventing the pacemaker control unit, a component that regulated the pacemaker with more precision. Boykin's contributions made pacemakers more efficient, longer-lasting, and cheaper to manufacture.

It all started with Boykin's first invention, the wire precision resistor, which he received a patent for in 1959. The invention allowed a precise amount of current to flow into a particular device or component. He soon tweaked the technology to create a more affordable electric resistor that could be mass produced, lowering the cost of manufacturing electronic devices and making them more affordable to the general public.

Boykin's technology was incorporated into many products, including IBM computers and the cardiac pacemaker.

According to Akhase Organization, a digital library of African history, Boykin was working as a senior project engineer at Chicago Telephone Supply Company when he began research that led to his technology making the pacemaker more efficient.

Watch the YouTube video below, created by the Akhase Organization, to learn more about Boykin's life and legacy.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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