The First Portable Drug Infusion Pump

Invented by Dean Kamen, 1973

Dean Kamen, president and owner of DEKA Research & Development Corp. in Manchester, N.H., is an inventor, an entrepreneur, and an advocate for science and technology. He invented the first wearable infusion pump while he was a physics major at WPI in the early 1970s. The device found immediate applications in chemotherapy, neonatology and endocrinology, and led to the development of the first insulin pump for diabetics. His pumps give diabetics and other patients whose lives depend on frequent doses of medication a greater degree of freedom. They also enable terminally ill patients to receive pain-killing medication in their homes.

He founded Autosyringe Inc. to make the pumps and ran it, for a time, from the basement of his parents' home on Long Island. Eventually, he found that managing the business took so much of his time that he was unable to attend classes, and he left WPI before receiving a degree (WPI awarded him an honorary doctorate in engineering in 1992). Eventually, he sold the company to Baxter International Corp. and founded DEKA to continue to develop his ideas for new medical technology. Recent projects have included the HomeChoice dialysis machine, developed for Baxter (it was named Medical Product of the Year by Design News in 1993), and the IBOT Transporter, a revolutionary stair-climbing wheelchair developed for Johnson & Johnson.

Kamen has received the Engineer of the Year Award from Design News magazine, the Hoover Medal (presented by five major engineering societies), and the Heinz Award in Technology. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. Most recently, he received the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest award for technological achievement.

He is also the founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the way Americans view science and technology. FIRST holds an annual competition in which robots designed and built by high school teams with corporate or university partnership compete in events modeled after sports competitions. The program is designed to get young people excited about science and technology.