Our Story: The Garage Years
Medtronic had a modest beginning. It was formed as a partnership in April 1949 by Earl Bakken and his brother-in-law, Palmer Hermundslie. At the time, Earl was a graduate student in electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota and did part-time work repairing delicate lab equipment at Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
With demand for his services continuing to grow, Earl left his graduate studies, Palmer quit his job with a local lumber firm, and together they formed a medical equipment repair company they named Medtronic. The two men set up shop in a garage in northeast Minneapolis.
Earl Bakken, co-founder of Medtronic, was an electrical engineer whose innovative skills were put to good use by the medical community.
By the second year, Earl and Palmer had expanded their business to do service work for several medical equipment manufacturers across the Upper Midwest.
As the servicing business grew and new employees were added, Medtronic expanded into a second garage and eventually occupied an apartment. It wasn't long before medical professionals asked Medtronic engineers to not only repair equipment, but also modify it, or design and produce new devices needed for research. The company's manufacturing business was born.
Although Medtronic built nearly 100 custom devices during the 1950s, only 10 were actually part of the official product line. In addition to pacemakers, these included two external defibrillators, forceps, an animal respirator, a cardiac rate monitor, and a physiologic stimulator.