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Lisburn mourns death of a medical genius
By Neil Greenlees

Professor Frank Pantridge. Pictured by Pacemaker PressONE of the most brilliant medical pioneers of the 20th century and a Freeman of the City of Lisburn, has died at the age of 88.

Professor Frank Pantridge, a native of Hillsborough who saved countless lives throughout the world by inventing the portable defibrillator, passed away in the Royal Victoria Hospital earlier this week aged 88.

The Mayor of Lisburn, Councillor Cecil Calvert, spoke of his sadness on hearing the news.

"Professor Pantridge was an esteemed Freeman of the City of Lisburn and a dear and valued friend to many of us here in Lisburn City Council," said the Mayor.

"He brought the mobile defibrillator to the world which saved countless numbers of lives and he was highly regarded in the academic world.

"The City of Lisburn where the Professor resided will be a sadder place without him. We pay tribute to his memory and pay our respects and sympathies to his family."

Former Mayor Councillor Jim Dillon, who made the defibrillator appeal his mayoral charity during his term of office, said Professor Pantridge had been 'a dear friend' for many years.

He recalled visiting the West Coast of America in 1981 and discovering the Professor was held in 'very high regard' right across the USA because of his contribution to cardiology.

"Some five years ago he was invited to as Guest of Honour to the South African Conference of Cardiologists," he continued. "He was flown there at their expense to speak at their conference.

"He was world renowned and he will be greatly missed. I cannot speak highly enough of him."

Professor Pantridge produced the first portable defibrillator in 1965.

It operated from car batteries and weighed 70 kilos. Its descendants are now used countless times daily across the world to save many lives.

He went on to install the portable defibrillator in an ambulance, this creating the pre-hospital coronary care unit known as the Pantridge Plan.

The plan was used to manage President Lyndon Johnson when he suffered a heart attack in Virginia in 1972.

The Professor was labelled the 'father of emergency medicine' and his plan was rapidly adopted in the USA and elsewhere.

A 1967 editorial in the medical journal 'The Lancet' stated Pantridge and his colleague at the RVH John Geddes had revolutionised emergency medicine.

However, it was not until 1990, almost 25 years after he installed the first defibrillator in a Belfast ambulance that Secretary of State for Health Kenneth Clarke announced �38 million was to be made available to equip all frontline ambulances in England with the equipment.

Professor Pantridge was born on the outskirts of Hillsborough on October 3, 1916 and was educated at Friends School. He graduated in medicine from Queens University in 1939.

He became a Medical Officer with an infantry battalion after joining the army at the outbreak of the Second World War and received an immediate award of the Military Cross for his work during the Battle of Singapore.

He was captured when the city fell to the Japanese and spent much of his captivity on the Siam-Burma railway - an experience which was to haunt him for the rest of his life. His interest in cardiology may have been initiated during this time when he survived the usually fatal cardiac beri-beri.

He returned to Belfast in 1945 but could obtain only an appointment as a supernumerary lecturer in the Queens University Department of Pathology.

He then obtained a scholarship to the University of Michigan where he worked with F. N. Wilson, the world authority on electrocardiology of the time.

He returned to Belfast in 1950 and was appointed Physician at the Royal Victoria Hospital where he remained until his retired in 1982, quickly establishing an internationally renowned cardiology unit.

He received the CBE in 1978 and was the author of the 'The Acute Coronary Attack' in 1975. His autobiography 'An Unquiet Life' was published in 1989 and his hobby was salmon fishing. Professor Pantridge was unmarried.