December 8, 2017
Dr. Robert E. Fischell joined the newly formed APL Space Department in 1959 to begin work on the Transit Navigation Satellite Program. The goal of the Transit satellites was to provide accurate positioning for the Polaris submarines so they could provide a truly viable deterrent of a nuclear war with the USSR. While becoming the Assistant Director of APL’s Space Department and its Chief Engineer, an event occurred that changed Dr. Fischell’s career path to be in the field of medical devices. That event was the invention of several implantable medical devices that included the first rechargeable heart pacemaker and the first heart defibrillator to be implanted into a human subject. From these first inventions, whose technologies have led to the implantation of pacers and defibrillators in millions of patients throughout the world, Dr. Fischell has now invented many other medical devices for the treatment of various medical problems. Described in his lecture will be his new inventions to treat epilepsy, migraine headaches and to prevent death from a heart attack.
Dr. Robert E. Fischell received his BSME degree from Duke University in 1951 and his MS and ScD (honorary) degrees from the University of Maryland. Dr. Fischell was employed at the Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory for 32 years where he actively developed more than 50 spacecraft for the US Navy and for NASA. Starting in 1969, while still employed at APL, Dr. Fischell began his career as a prolific inventor with over 200 issued US and foreign patents that have been the basis for medical devices that have been implanted in more than 20 million patients on a worldwide basis. Fifteen private companies have licensed his patents on medical devices that include heart pacemakers, defibrillators, coronary stents, and devices to treat neurologic pain, epilepsy and migraine headaches. Dr. Fischell’s honors include Inventor of the Year for the USA in 1984, election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1996, and several medals for distinguished accomplishments in science, engineering and innovation. In the first half of the year 2016 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Technical Council of Maryland, election as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology. On May 17, 2016 at the White House, he received from President Obama the National Medal for Technology and Innovation, the highest recognition in the USA for his contributions toward the betterment of mankind.