Mower, co-inventor of implantable defibrillator, dies at 89

BALTIMORE – Dr. Morton Mower, a former Maryland cardiologist who helped invent an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator that has helped countless heart patients live longer and healthier lives, has died at age 89.

Funeral services were held Wednesday for Mower, who died two days earlier of cancer at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver, The Baltimore Sun reported. The Maryland native had moved to Colorado a decade ago.

Mower and Dr. Michel Mirowski, both colleagues at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, began work in 1969 on developing a miniature defibrillator that could be implanted into a patient. The device would correct a patient’s heartbeat that is too fast or inefficient with an electrical shock to resume its normal rhythm.

“It was the talk of the whole hospital that these two crazy people are going to put in an automatic defibrillator,” Mower said in a 2015 interview with the medical journal The Lancet. ‘If something had gone wrong, we would never have gotten over it. We were these two crazy guys who wanted to put a time bomb in people’s chests, so to speak.

Doctors had, within months, a model of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator for demonstration. But it wasn’t until 1980 that the device was implanted in a human at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the newspaper reported.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved the device in 1985. The two doctors shared a patent on the device, the technology of which was sold to pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. Mower later became director of medical research for the Eli Lilly division that produced the implantable cardioverter defibrillator, according to the newspaper.


“I think Morty had as much influence in the successful search for treatment for sudden death as anyone in our profession,” said Dr. David Cannom, a retired Los Angeles cardiologist and lifelong friend.

The device “proved to be better than medication for treating arrhythmia, and they did it against all odds in a small hospital in Baltimore,” Cannom added. “And over the last 40 years, it has proven to be reliable…and has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients.”

Mower, a Baltimore native who grew up in Frederick, attended Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He worked in Baltimore hospitals and served in the Army before beginning his professional career at Sinai in 1966 as a co-investigator for its Coronary Drug Project. He was chief or acting chief of cardiology at the hospital for several years in the 1970s and 1980s. Sinai Hospital named a medical office building for him in 2005.

Later in his career, he was a consultant or executive for several medical companies.

“He continued his research and worked until his death,” his son, Mark Mower, of Beverly Hills, California, wrote in an email to the newspaper. He never wanted to waste a moment of his life.

Mower received many awards, including a 2002 induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He was also involved in Jewish charities.

In addition to his son, Mower is survived by his wife of 57 years, Tobia; a daughter, Sobin Sara Mower of Denver; and three grandchildren.

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