Willem Johan Kolff life and biography

Willem Johan Kolff picture, image, poster

Willem Johan Kolff biography

Date of birth : 1911-02-14
Date of death : 2009-02-11
Birthplace : Leiden, Netherlands
Nationality : Dutch
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-12-19
Credited as : scientist, artificial kidney, installed the first artificial human heart

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Willem Johan "Pim" Kolff (February 14, 1911 – February 11, 2009) was a pioneer of hemodialysis as well as in the field of artificial organs. Willem is a member of the Kolff family, an old Dutch patrician family.

He made his major discoveries in the field of dialysis for kidney failure during the Second World War. He migrated in 1950 to the United States, where he obtained the US citizenship in 1955, and received a number of awards and widespread recognition for his work.

The idea of an external, artificial kidney had been pursued earlier, but Willem Johan Kolff designed and built the first functional dialysis machine. Remarkably, he did this work without funding, using machinery from a local factory, parts salvaged from a used Ford and a downed German fighter plane, and using sausage casings made of cellophane as the blood-filtering material — all during the Nazi occupation of his native Holland, while Kolff himself was active in the underground resistance movement. His dialysis machine was first used successfully on a human in 1945, and his invention has saved millions of lives since.

In the aftermath of a German air attack on The Hague in 1940, Kolff established the first blood bank in Europe, and while working at a small rural hospital in the Netherlands he provided false hospital admission papers for local Jews and subversives seeking a hiding place from the Nazis. After the war he came to America, where he designed a membrane oxygenator used in bypass surgery, an intra-aortic balloon pump used in to repair arterial failure, and in 1975, a portable, "wearable" artificial kidney. With his student Robert Jarvik, Kolff co-designed and surgically installed the first artificial human heart in 1982.


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