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Memorable Manitobans: Wilfred Gordon “Bill” Bigelow (1913-2005)

Heart surgeon.

Born at Brandon in 1913, son of Wilfred A. Bigelow and Grace Ann Carnegie Gordon (1877-1958), he attended Brandon College in the early 1930s and graduated with a medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1938. Following service in the Canadian Medical Army Corps during the Second World War, he took further medical training at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the USA, specializing in cardiac surgery.

He returned to Toronto in 1947 and established a hypothermia research unit at The Banting Institute. There he performed the world’s first open heart surgery on a dog using the principal of hypothermia, paving the way for its use on humans, the basis for his international recognition as the father of Canadian heart surgery. He and colleagues also developed the cardiac pacemaker. He received the Gairdner Foundation Award (1959), received an honorary doctorate from Brandon University (1967), was inducted into the Order of Canada (1981) and the Canadian Medical Association’s Hall of Fame (1997).

He died at Toronto, Ontario on 27 March 2005.

Sources:

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 31 March 2005.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 31 December 2019

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