Obituary: Dr Paul Zoll

PAUL ZOLL made decisive contributions to treatment of life- threatening cardiac arrhythmias by the invention and successful application in humans of the cardiac pacemaker, cardiac defibrillator, and cardiac monitoring in the 1950s. His discoveries saved and improved the lives of millions of people throughout the world.

He was born in 1911 in Boston, Massachusetts. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard College in 1932 and an MD from Harvard Medical School in 1936. His residency training was at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and Bellevue Hospital in New York City. In 1939, he returned to Beth Israel Hospital as a research fellow in cardiology.

Initially, he worked under Dr Monroe Schlesinger and Dr Herrman Blumgart on the pathology of coronary arteries by injecting dye into the post-mortem human heart. He studied the relationship between the blockage of the coronary artery and chest pain and heart attack. This study was the forerunner of the modern-day coronary angiography and served as an important foundation of the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic ischaemic heart disease.

During the Second World War, Zoll served as an Army Medical Officer in the UK. There, he witnessed Dr Dwight Harken, his classmate at Harvard, remove foreign bodies (such as shell fragments) from around the heart. Zoll was impressed that the heart was highly excitable: whenever Harken touched the heart with forceps, it generated an extra beat.

In 1949, Zoll cared for a patient in her sixties who had recurrent fainting spells due to her heart intermittently being arrested. The patient died three weeks later and this greatly frustrated Zoll. He thought she would not have died if he had a way to stimulate the heart. Recalling his observation in the UK, he started to perform laboratory experiments to explore methods to pace the heart without opening the chest. This led to a successful electrical pacing of the human heart through the chest, saving the life of a patient in 1952. Following this, a number of groups in the world raced to develop a permanent implantable pacemaker - Zoll's group was among the first to apply it in 1960 to patients.

While the pacemaker was life- saving for cardiac standstill or slow rhythm, it was not effective for another kind of cardiac arrest - ventricular fibrillation (chaotic heart rhythm, commonly seen after a heart attack or severe heart failure). In 1956, Zoll was the first successfully to perform external cardiac defibrillation - the application of electric countershock to stop the chaotic rhythm. Cardiac defibrillators are now equipped in every hospital, ambulance, and even in commercial airlines, as it is the most rapid and effective procedure to terminate this lethal rhythm. Zoll also found that the cardiac defibrillation was effective in terminating most cases of life-threatening rapid heart rate.

Another important invention Zoll made during this time was the development of continuous cardiac monitoring with an oscilloscope with audio alarms. This allowed an immediate detection of irregular heart rhythm and patients could be treated without delay. The cardiac monitor is now standard in every coronary care unit, in intensive care units, operating rooms, and recovery rooms. Remarkably, Zoll did not patent any of his revolutionary inventions in medical technology. This allowed rapid dissemination of the technology throughout the world without patent restrictions and, therefore, contributed to saving millions of lives.

Zoll was head of the Cardiac Clinic at Beth Israel Hospital from 1947 to 1958. He was Associate Editor of Circulation, the official journal of the American Heart Association, from 1956 to 1965. He became a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in 1965. He maintained active clinical practice up until the early 1990s and continued to perform research on the external cardiac pacemaker. In the 1980s, Zoll and his son founded Zoll Medical Corporation, based on new, painless external electrodes Zoll developed in the later years.

Zoll was quite extraodinary in that he pioneered three critical areas of modern therapeutic electrophysiology: the cardiac pacemaker, the cardiac defibrillator, and the continuous cardiac monitor, enabling immediate diagnosis and treatment of potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias. Any one of these would have been quite an accomplishment for a professor of cardiology. Furthermore, his concept laid the foundation for the development of highly sophisticated devices, such as anti-tachycardia pacemakers and implantable cardiac defibrillators.

In 1973, he received the prestigious Albert Lasker Award - many of those awarded this honour go on to receive a Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology. Indeed, given the impact of Zoll's work, he would have been a well-deserved recipient of the Nobel Prize. Nevertheless, his name will always be remembered because the cardiac pacemaker, cardiac defibrillator, and cardiac monitor will stay forever as the most important armamentarium of cardiologists. Ordered electrical activity is inherently fundamental for the heart and it was Paul Zoll who first taught us that electricity can (and should) be used to treat fatal cardiac arrhythmias in humans.

Seigo Izumo

Paul Maurice Zoll, cardiologist: born Boston, Massachusetts 15 July 1911; assistant in medicine, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston 1939-54, Head of Cardiac Clinic 1947-58, Physician 1954-93 (Honorary Senior Physician 1993); Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School 1941-65, Clinical Professor of Medicine 1965-93 (Emeritus); married 1939 Janet Jones (deceased; one son, one daughter), 1981 Ann Blumgart Gurewich; died Newton, Massachusetts 5 January 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
music

Arts and Entertainment
Creep show: Tim Cockerill in ‘Spider House’

TVEnough to make ardent arachnophobes think twice

Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tvThe Apprentice contestants take a battering from the business mogul
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain