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WILLEM J. KOLFF

1911–2009

Elected in 1989

“For innovative and unique artificial organ research and for leadership
in bringing advanced engineering concepts to artificial organ design,
construction, and implantation.”

BY LAURA GUNDRY
SUBMITTED BY THE NAE HOME SECRETARY

WILLEM J. KOLFF, widely considered the father of the field of artificial organs, and University of Utah distinguished professor emeritus of bioengineering, surgery, and medicine, passed away on February 11, 2009, at the age of 97, in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Dr. Kolff invented the kidney dialysis machine and was instrumental in the development of the intra-aortic balloon pump, membrance oxygenator, artificial heart, and artificial eye.

Dr. Kolff based his highly productive research career on collaborative research because he believed it to be the most effective way of achieving his goal of developing and exploiting the possibilities of artificial human organs as a means to “restore people to an enjoyable existence.”

Due to his groundbreaking work on the artificial kidney, millions of patients worldwide have benefited from life-sustaining hemodialysis. His artificial heart is still in use, in subsequent designs, as a bridge to transplantation in patients with heart failure. Dr. Kolff’s broad vision inspired his colleagues to explore a wide variety of organs—an effort that contributed to pioneering research on such other artificial devices as the lung, placenta, ear, arms, and legs.



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