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The Same Actor Who Voiced Tigger Invented the Artificial Heart

patrick baslar
October 11, 2018

Actor Paul Winchell is most famous for voicing Tigger in Winnie the Pooh and for his career as a successful ventriloquist, but the most amazing—and forgotten—part of his career was his work as an inventor. The man holds over 30 patents, the most remarkable of which is his invention of what may very well be the first artificial heart.

In 1961, Winchell filed a patent for an artificial heart after working on the device with doctors at the University of Utah, according to The Atlantic. The device could keep people alive after heart failure, using a battery on the outside to keep it going. It never made it inside a human, but is believed to have inspired the design of the Jarvik 7, the first artificial heart to be transplanted in a person.

So how did Winchell go from actor to inventor of medical tech? His work in ventriloquism actually helped: "Odd as it may seem, the heart wasn't that different from building a dummy; the valves and chambers were not unlike the moving and eyes and closing mouth of a puppet."