Adrian Kantrowitz
(1918 – 2008)


NYU Alumni Changemaker of the Year
(ARTS ’40)

Cardiac Surgeon

When cardiac surgeon Adrian Kantrowitz passed away in 2008, he bequeathed an extraordinary array of lifesaving innovations. He is the inventor of the implantable pacemaker, the non-invasive, artery-opening “balloon pump,” and the L-VAD (Left Ventricle Assistance Device), which keeps hearts beating better, for longer. Oh, and he was the second person to ever perform a heart transplant, and would have been first if not for now-antiquated US rules on organ-harvesting.

But Dr. Kantrowitz’s inventiveness wasn’t limited to cardiology. He was a natural problem-solver. In fact, he initially designed the pacemaker as a neuro-stimulator for people with spinal column injuries. (70 years later, a version of the pacemaker is actually being used in this capacity.) His trailblazing use of bioelectronic technology helped define the field of cardiac surgery when it was still in its infancy, and he brought an engineer’s ingenuity to afflictions of the human body.

While helping to save literally millions of lives, Dr. Kantrowitz also found time to be a loving husband and father, and a committed pursuer of a better world for everyone. He published hundreds of articles in his career and received more than 20 patents on his surgical inventions. In 2001 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society for Artificial Organs. He was a pioneer, and his contributions to human health and longevity continue to save and improve lives.