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Robert Jarvik

Robert Jarvik
Born Robert Koffler Jarvik
(1946-05-11) May 11, 1946
Midland, Michigan, United States
Occupation Scientist, Researcher
Known for Developing the Jarvik-7 artificial heart
Spouse(s) Marilyn vos Savant (1987-present)

Robert Koffler Jarvik, M.D. (born May 11, 1946) is an American scientist, researcher and entrepreneur known for his role in developing the Jarvik-7 artificial heart.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Robert Jarvik was born in Midland, Michigan to Norman Eugene Jarvik and Edythe Koffler Jarvik, and raised in Stamford, Connecticut.[1] He is the nephew of Murray Jarvik, a pharmacologist who was the co-inventor of the nicotine patch.[2][3]

Jarvik is a graduate of Syracuse University. He earned a master’s degree in medical engineering from New York University.[4]


After being admitted to the M.D. in 1976 from the University of Utah. A medical scientist, he did not complete an internship or residency and has never been licensed to practice medicine.[5][6]

Jarvik joined Willem Johan Kolff, his mentor. At the time, the program used a pneumatic artificial heart design by Clifford Kwan-Gett that had sustained an animal in the lab for 10 days. Kolff assigned Jarvik to design a new heart that would overcome the problems of the Kwan-Gett heart, eventually culminating with the Jarvik-7 device.[7]

Jarvik worked jointly with Kolff on the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, a self-contained, integrated pneumatic unit based on previous designs, particularly those of Paul Winchell. No better solution was found for transcutaneous transmission of energy than surgical tunnelling of two 3 cm pneumatic tubes. The control apparatus was shopping-cart sized. Thus, a patient with a Jarvik-7 had very restricted mobility, even if other problems such as embolism and infection were adequately controlled. Patients still required medication, including heavy antibiotics as well as other drugs and treatments. The heart utilized ultra thin membranes stacked to form a diaphragmatic surface with a graphite lubricant intermittently placed between the membranes.

Jarvik's name came to the forefront after the well-aired 1982 news coverage of the artificial heart implant (the first done since Domingo Liotta and Denton Cooley's first in 1969).[8] William DeVries first implanted the Jarvik-7 into retired dentist Barney Clark at the University of Utah on December 2, 1982. He required frequent visits to the hospital for the next 112 days, after which he died. During frequent press conferences to update the patient's condition, Jarvik, along with DeVries, briefed the world’s media on Clark’s condition. The next several implantations of the Jarvik-7 heart were conducted by Humana, a large health care insurance company. The second patient, William J. Schroeder, survived 620 days.[9]

Later, Jarvik formed Symbion, Inc. to manufacture the heart, but he lost the company in a takeover. Jarvik then founded JARVIK Heart, Inc., and began work to create the Jarvik 2000, a lifetime ventricular assist device.

In 2006, Jarvik began appearing in television commercials for Pfizer's cholesterol medication Lipitor. Two members of Congress, as part of their campaign against celebrity endorsements, began an investigation as to whether his television advertisements constitute medical advice given without a license to practice medicine. One controversial ad depicts Jarvik rowing, but due to insurance and other considerations, he did not row himself, and a body double was used.[10] Later, Jarvik admitted he had not taken Lipitor until becoming a spokesman for the company.[11] On February 25, 2008, Pfizer announced that it would discontinue its ads with Jarvik.[12]

Personal life

Jarvik is married to Parade magazine columnist Marilyn vos Savant since 1987.[13] Contrary to some sources [14] Jarvik is not a Latter-day Saint.[15]


  1. ^ "Men in the News: A Pair of Skilled Hands to Guide an Artificial Heart: Robert Kiffler Jarvik". Article in The New York Times, 3 December 1982. Retrieved from [1] on 2006-06-23.
  2. ^ Maugh II, Thomas (2008-05-14). "Dr. Murray E. Jarvik, 84; UCLA pharmacologist invented nicotine patch".  
  3. ^ "Dr. Murray Jarvik, co-inventor of nicotine patch, dies at 84 in Santa Monica".  
  4. ^ a b "Milestones". Rime Magazine, March 2, 2009 p.18
  5. ^ "Men in the News: A Pair of Skilled Hands to Guide an Artificial Heart: Robert Kiffler Jarvik". Article in The New York Times, 3 December 1982. Retrieved from [2] on 2007-05-27.
  6. ^ "Is this celebrity doctor's TV ad right for you?". Article in MSNBC, 1 March 2007. Retrieved from [3] on 2007-05-27.
  7. ^ Great Lives from History: Inventors and Inventions -- Robert Jarvik
  8. ^ Liotta/Cooley "Orthotopic Cardiac Prosthesis for Two-Staged Cardiac Replacement," which appears in Volume 24 (1969) of the American Journal of Cardiology (pp. 723-730).
  9. ^ Artificial Heart - Early developments
  10. ^ "Congress questions Jarvik's credentials in celebrity ad" The State, January 8, 2008.
  11. ^ American Medical Association Journal of Ethics October 2010, Volume 12, Number 10: 818-823
  12. ^ Pfizer pulls ads featuring artificial heart inventor - Heart health -
  13. ^ "About Marilyn". Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  14. ^ Brother Paul's Mormon Bathroom Reader
  15. ^ article on the Mormon influence on the artificial heart project


  • Frazier, O H; Myers, T J; Jarvik, R K; Westaby, S; Pigott, D W; Gregoric, I D; Khan, T; Tamez, D W; Conger, J L; Macris, M P (2001). "Research and development of an implantable, axial-flow left ventricular assist device: the Jarvik 2000 Heart.". Ann. Thorac. Surg. 71 (3 Suppl) (Mar 2001). pp. S125–32; discussion S144–6.  
  • Jarvik, R K; Lawson, J H; Olsen, D B; Fukumasu, H; Kolff, WJ (1978). "The beat goes on: status of the artificial heart, 1977.". The International journal of artificial organs 1 (1) (Jan 1978). pp. 21–7.  

External links

  • Jarvik Heart Official website.
  • Google Patents link to Winchell Patent for Artificial Heart
  • Pfizer Launches New Lipitor Effort
  • MSNBC article on Jarvik and Pfizer
  • Congress Probes Doctor's Role in Drug Ad
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