It’s easy to forget about overlap between the automotive industry and other arenas of human accomplishment. For example, it’s likely that most people today do not know of the very first mechanical heart, which General Motors collaborated to help build more than 6 decades ago.
In 1952, Dr. Forest Dodrill of Wayne State University’s Harper Hospital sought the help of engineers from General Motors – with some funding from the American Heart Association – in creating a mechanical pump which could continue the circulation of blood through a patient during open heart surgery.
The finished product was the Dodrill-GMR Mechanical Heart, which proved successful in the Fall of 1952. It ran continuously for 50 minutes of the 80 minute-long operation. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Dodrill-GMR Mechanical Heart looks an awful lot like an internal combustion engine, though a lot smaller at just over a cubic foot in size.
Much more sophisticated mechanical hearts have come along in the decades since, and are relied on regularly for many of the heart operations that are performed in modern health facilities. But all of these contraptions owe some debt of gratitude to the original 1952 Dodrill-General Motors Research Mechanical Heart.