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January 20, 2020  
HEART NEWS: Feature Story

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  • Heart Researcher Dr. William Glenn Dies


    March 18, 2003

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Dr. William Wallace Lumpkin Glenn, a Yale University heart surgeon who helped develop pacemakers and other innovations in cardiovascular surgery, has died. He was 88.

    Glenn died March 10 at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, N.H., the university said. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

    Glenn and his associates in 1959 became the first to use electrical stimulation by radio frequency to help the heart beat, and later to help the diaphragm contract. The research led to the development of pacemakers.

    In 1950 Glenn and a colleague, Dr. William H. Sewell, created an early artificial heart that is now at the Smithsonian Institution.

    Glenn used the device, made from inexpensive materials including a child's Erector set and glass tubes, to divert blood flow from a dog's heart for about an hour.

    "He loved to tinker with things. A lot of his inventions he tried out at home," said his son, William A.L. Glenn of New York City.

    In 1954, Glenn developed a shunt to bypass malformed hearts in oxygen-deprived babies, a procedure that became widely accepted.

    A textbook he wrote, "Glenn's Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery," remains the standard text for vascular surgeons.

    Glenn started teaching at the Yale University School of Medicine in 1948 as chief of cardiovascular surgery. He became the chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Yale in 1965.

    He was the first surgeon to be elected president of the American Heart Association, serving from 1979 to 1981.

    Glenn was born Aug. 12, 1914, in Asheville, N.C. During World War II he enlisted in the Army Medical Corps, where he honed his skills and developed surgical techniques.


    Last updated: 18-Mar-03

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