Most people in medtech know of Earl Bakken’s contributions to pacemakers and cardiac rhythm devices, but without Otis Boykin, pacemakers wouldn’t have the pacing technology they do today.
Boykin, an African-American inventor and engineer, had a special interest in resistors. His mother died from heart failure when he was 1 year old. Thirty-one years later, he filed a patent for a resistor that paved the way for his most notable invention, the pacemaker control unit.
While working at Lisle, Ill.-based CTS Corp., Boykin filed a patent (U.S. Patent No. 2972726A) for a high-precision, wire-type electrical resistor that could be readily adapted to different space requirements and configurations. According to the patent, the resistor was designed to combine minimum inductive properties with minimum capacitive effects. It could also provide tolerances as low as required and could withstand “relatively great accelerations and shocks and great temperature changes” without breaking the fine resistance wire or causing other detrimental effects.
In the patent filing, which lists CTS as the assignee, Boykin said the resistor was made of lengths of resistance wire between 0.0006 in. and 0.010 in. in diameter and had resistance values of 0.05 ohm to several megohms. The patent also says the resistor could be made cheaply and quickly without wire strain. Most importantly, the high-precision, wire-type electrical resistor could offer the time base needed for pacemakers to work on a smaller scale.
Pacemakers are small devices that help the heart beat regularly by delivering a small electric stimulation that controls the heartbeat. The control units help identify the number of pulses per minute needed for each individual patient and the pulses become the number of beats per minute for the paced heart.