History of AEDs


At Cardiac Science, we’ve been at the forefront of developing defibrillators for many years, both manufacturing and selling AEDs and training devices to help save lives across the globe.

However, while we often talk about new and innovative product developments, we rarely discuss the past.

When was the defibrillator invented?

The first portable defibrillator was invented in Belfast by Frank Pantridge in the mid-1960s. This edition weighed 70kg and was powered by car batteries.

But by 1968 Pantridge had created a device weighing just 3kg, and became known as the “Father of Emergency Medicine” thanks to his pioneering work.

However, the question of ‘who invented the defibrillator’ actually takes us as far back as the late 18th century.

As early as 1775, scientists were experimenting with chickens to prove that hearts could be started and stopped with electricity.

Over a century later, Swiss physiologists JL Prevost and F Batelli demonstrated that electricity could restart dogs’ hearts.

And from around 1925, William B. Kouwenhoven was researching defibrillation and CPR using rats in the USA.

It wasn’t until 1947 that defibrillation was first done successfully on a human, by a surgeon called Claude Beck. He was performing surgery on a 14 year old boy when the patient suffered a ventricular fibrillation – and after two electric shocks, his heart started beating again. But as this was a highly invasive ‘open-chest’ scenario, this was only the beginning.

It took another nine years for a ‘closed-chest’ defibrillation to be used successfully on people – although Kouwenhoven successfully revived a dog in this way in 1954.

Next came the first AED machines in 1978, which used sensors to detect ventricular fibrillation.

And finally in 2004, Cardiac Science released the first fully automatic public access defibrillator.

Defibrillators Today

At Cardiac Science, we’ve been world-leaders in developing and marketing life-saving AED technologys since 1991. But today, our main focus is leading the way in making defibrillators as Rescue Ready® as possible.

That’s why we designed our Powerheart® AEDs to perform daily self-tests, and ensure they’re always ready to use in an emergency. It’s why we developed STAR® Biphasic technology, which customises the level of defibrillation energy to the patient’s heart rate. Perhaps most importantly, it’s why we added on-screen and spoken instructions, to ensure our AEDs can be used by anybody – not just medical professionals.

This, we believe, should always be the priority for the defibrillator innovators of the future. Not just making the AED more intelligent, portable and powerful – but making sure that in an emergency, the average person can access it, use it, and help save a life.

Because despite the many scientific and technological changes that have taken place during the long history of defibrillators, saving lives has always been the ultimate goal.

To find out more

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