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Willem Johan Kolff

Born: 14-Feb-1911
Birthplace: Leiden, Netherlands
Died: 11-Feb-2009
Location of death: Newtown Square, PA
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Cremated

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Doctor, Inventor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Artificial kidney, artificial heart

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.

Father: Jacob Kolff (physician)
Mother: Adriana de Jonge
Wife: Janke Huidekoper (m. 1937, div. 2000, d. 2006)
Daughter: Adrie Burnett
Son: Albert Kolff
Son: Jacob Kolff
Son: Kees Kolff
Son: Therus Kolff

    Medical School: MD, University of Leiden (1938)
    University: PhD, Groningen University (1946)
    Professor: Surgery, University of Utah (1967-2009)

    Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize 2004
    Lasker Award 2002
    Japan Prize 1986
    Leo Harvey Prize 1972
    Gairdner Prize 1966
    Frances Amory Award 1948
    Landsteiner Silver Medal 1942
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Society of Artificial Internal Organs
    Cleveland Clinic (1950-67)
    Naturalized US Citizen 1956
    Dutch Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Dyslexia


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