Bill Bigelow

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Biography

Wilfred Gordon “Bill” Bigelow was born in 1913 in Brandon, Manitoba, and graduated from the University of Toronto with an arts degree in the Biological and Medical Sciences program in 1935.  Immediately following, he entered medical school, receiving his MD in 1938.  During his time at the University of Toronto, Bigelow played interfaculty hockey and served as the president of the 3T8 class.  Following graduation, Bigelow trained in surgery at Toronto General Hospital in the Gallie program until he enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps as a military surgeon in 1941, returning to Toronto to further pursue surgery in 1945. Bigelow conducted the first closed mitral valvotomy in Toronto in the early 1950's and is known for several significant medical advances including the use of hypothermia to cool the body to enable open-heart surgery and the invention of the artificial pacemaker.

 

 

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Dr. Wilfred Gordon Bigelow's key discovery, made in 1950, was recognizing how to lower the body's oxygen requirements while lowering the body's core temperature to a point at which safe open heart surgery was possible. The first successful human application of Dr. Bigelow's hypothermia research for open heart surgery, occurred in 1953. Meanwhile, he had pioneered another major advance, in the management of heart disease -- the pacemaker -- which evolved quite unexpectedly out of his hypothermia research in 1951. Together, these discoveries revolutionized heart surgery and have made a significant difference to the lives of millions of people with heart disease.

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