Medtronic co-founder Earl Bakken dies at 94

Earl Bakken, co-founder of Medtronic, died peacefully Sunday at the age of 94. Photo courtesy of Medtronic. 

Earl Bakken, the co-founder of Minnesota-based medical device company Medtronic, died Sunday at his home in Hawaii. He was 94. 

Bakken, a Columbia Heights native, invented the pacemaker and was a pioneer in medical technology.

In 1949, he founded Medtronic with his brother-in-law, Palmer Hermundslie, in a small garage and worked with the University of Minnesota hospital. He led the company for 40 years before retiring as chairman in 1989. 

"Today we are saddened by the passing of Earl Bakken, but we also honor and will forever cherish the life of a beloved man whose brilliance and vision have improved the lives of millions of people around the world," Omar Ishrak, Medtronic chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "The contributions Earl made to the field of medical technology simply cannot be overstated. His spirit will live on with us as we work to fulfill the Mission he wrote nearly 60 years ago - to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bakken family during this difficult time."

Bakken also founded The Bakken Museum, a library, museum and education center in Minneapolis devoted to the history of electricity and magnetism and their uses in science and medicine.