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Earl Bakken celebrates 90th birthday

Big Island residents and visitors celebrated North Hawaii Community Hospital founder, Hawaii Island philanthropist and pacemaker inventor Earl Bakken’s 90th birthday Monday.

The celebration occurred at the hospital, where attendees enjoyed cake and ice cream. There was also a proclamation from the county by Mayor Billy Kenoi, which declared Jan. 10, 2014, as “Earl Bakken Day.”

Bakken became involved in the development of the hospital in Waimea in the early 1990s. He was born Jan. 10, 1924, in Columbia Heights, Minn.

In 1949, Bakken cofounded a company called Medtronic to service medical electronic equipment. On Oct. 31, 1957, because of a blackout in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., life-threatening problems caused the death of a sick infant known as a blue baby. One month later, Medtronic created the first wearable, battery-powered, transistorized, external cardiac pacemaker.

In 1984, The National Society of Professional Engineers named the invention of the cardiac pacemaker one of the 10 outstanding engineering achievements of the second half of the 20th century. In 1989, Bakken retired from Medtronic and moved to Kiholo Bay.


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