#AtoZchallenge: History of Paramedicine – D is for Defibrillators

Working on getting caught back up after falling behind….   

Those who know me, know that one of my biggest interests is stuff related to Fire/EMS… Last year my theme was “Fire/EMS Safety Messages“. This year I’ve decided to do “History of Paramedicine“.

Defibrillators and AEDs (also known as Automatic External Defibrillators) are key in maintaing  proper cardiac function.  The marvels of modern technology mean that Cardiac Emergencies such as Cardiac Arrest, Fibrillation, etc can be treated on the spot.

Now a days defibrillators are standard in every ALS (Advance Life Support Ambulance) and AEDs  are found on pretty much every Fire Truck & Police Car as well as in most all public places.  However, when defibrillalators first came about  they required AC current and only worked when the chest cavity was open.  This required the patient to be in the hospital setting.

1940 defib
defibrillator deveveloped by Dr. Beck in the 1940’s

Early defibrillators were often large and bulky.   The first instance of  Internal Defibrillation is said to have been done in 1947 by Dr. Claude Schaeffer Beck when the patient he had been operating on went into cardiac arrest.  The first Defibrillator capable of working on a closed chest was demonstrated  by  Cardiologist Paul Zoll in the 1950’s.

Zoll Pacemaker
Zoll Cardiac Pacemaker (developed in the 1950’s)






It was in the early 1960’s that a major breakthrough for paramedicine occurred when the first portable defibrillators were developed allowing treatment out side the hospital for the first time.


Founded by Karl William Edmark in 1955, Physio-Control is one of the most well known names in the continued development of newer and better defibrillators better known under the product of “LifePak” – Check out physio-control timeline .

LifePak 33 (1968)
LifePak 33 (1968)
LifePak 4 (1974)
LifePak 4 (1974)
LifePak 11 (1995)


The first AED (Automated External Defibrillator) was introduced in 1978 allowing for defibrillation among the general public.

Over the years  both defibrillators and AEDs have both improved greatly allowing for better efficiency and ease of use.






The National EMS Museum has some great resources on the history of Paramedicine including these links specifically related to the history of defibrillators:


It just dawned on me that I sent out the last A to Z post (Lertter C) without adding my 5 blogs to check-out.  In the interest of time, I’m going to split the difference here and go with 7:

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