1954: GM plays a role in creating the first mechanical heart pump.

Dr. Forest Dodrill, a surgeon at Wayne State University's Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, first envisioned the mechanical heart pump in 1952. He called upon GM Research Laboratories for help.
A nurse demonstrates the the Dodrill-GMR Mechanical Heart, built by the GM Research Laboratories.
The mechanical heart was described as resembling a 12-cylinder engine, with 6 separate chambers (looking like cylinders).
With parts made of stainless steel, glass, and rubber, it used air pressure and vacuum pumps to circulate blood from the 12 chambers through the patient’s body while the heart was being operated on.
In 1954, with more sophisticated heart-lung machines available, the Dodrill-GMR Mechanical Heart was donated to the Smithsonian.
Dr. Dodrill and his medical team turned to a team of scientists and engineers at the General Motors Research Laboratories to help develop and then build a mechanical heart
Dr. Dodrill and GM Engineers demonstrate the Dodrill GMR Mechanical Heart
  • Conceived by Detroit surgeon in 1952 to aid open heart surgery
  • Engineered and built by GM Laboratories
  • First successful use later that same year
  • Catalyst for continuous advancement in heart surgery to this day
General Motors has made significant contributions to society in important areas besides automotive. One such example is the development of a machine that would temporarily replace the blood-pumping function of the heart, making open heart surgery possible for the first time.

Dr. Forest Dodrill, a surgeon at Wayne State University's Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, first envisioned the mechanical heart pump in 1952. He called upon GM Research Laboratories for help. The result was the Dodrill-GMR Mechanical Heart, built by GM laboratories with funding from the American Heart Association. Its first successful use occurred later that same year, on a 41-year-old man.

The Dodrill-GMR Mechanical Heart set into motion a tidal wave of research and medical advances. Since its revolutionary introduction, more than a million successful open heart surgeries have been performed worldwide.