Medtronic has grown from a small electrical repair shop in a Minneapolis garage to a global leader in medical technology.
Read about our history below.
In 1949, brothers-in-law Earl Bakken, a graduate student in electrical engineering, and Palmer Hermundslie, an enterprising engineer, started a repair business focused on medical electronics. Hence the name, and the birth of, Medtronic.
1949 The Garage Gang
The pair were driven by passion and a deep moral purpose to use their scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to help others. As the volume of work increased, they added a handful of employees, who called themselves the “garage gang,” a reference to their spartan office located in two boxcars used as a garage and woodworking shop at the Hermundslie family’s home.
1950 The Early Years
Bakken and Hermundslie began selling medical equipment for the Sanborn Company of Boston, Massachusetts and building customized “specials” for local hospitals, including for the medical and research staff at University of Minnesota.
1957 The First Battery-Operated Pacemaker
The power went out in Minneapolis on Halloween, 1957, endangering the lives of open-heart surgery patients who often needed to be attached to a pacemaker following surgery. Existing pacemakers were large, bulky boxes wheeled on carts and plugged into an electrical outlet. Concerned for his patients, a University of Minnesota heart surgeon asked Earl if he could create a battery-operated pacemaker. Within four weeks, the revolutionary device began saving lives. Palmer, an accomplished pilot, flew his Beechcraft Bonanza all over the United States delivering pacemakers to customers. Soon after, the “wearable” Medtronic pacemaker was being shipped to doctors around the world. One year later, Medtronic produced the first implantable pacemaker.
Guided by our new Mission, Medtronic added mechanical devices, joining electrical stimulation as a core technology, and grew into an international company during the 1960s.
1967 The Beginning of Global Expansion
By 1967, the company was poised for expansion. The first international office opened in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in 1967, followed by the establishment of Medtronic Canada in 1968.
During the 1970s, Medtronic expanded its global presence and product offerings. Stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, and the company took several strides in Corporate Citizenship.
1970-1974 International Markets
Entering China, India, and other emerging markets helped Medtronic learn the importance of providing training for physicians in the latest Medtronic technologies, working sensitively with local customs and partners, and finding creative ways to make the latest technologies affordable and accessible. By 1974, we were serving more than 70 countries around the world.
1974-1979 Corporate Citizenship
Medtronic hired a manager for equal employment in 1974 and instituted a minority-suppliers program in 1975. The Bakken Society was founded in 1979 to recognize technical employees who have made multiple, significant contributions to Medtronic, to the biomedical industry, and to customers and patients. That same year, the Medtronic Foundation was established, reinforcing a commitment to Corporate Citizenship, the sixth tenet of the Medtronic Mission.
1977 Prosthetic Heart Valve
Medtronic created a heart-valve division in 1977 and introduced the new Medtronic-Hall mechanical heart valve to the market that same year. The Medtronic-Hall tilting-disc valve was a significant development in valve design and was the choice of physicians all over the world for nearly a quarter of a century.
During the 1980s, Medtronic hired additional materials scientists, doubled down on R&D, and began publishing product performance reports 27 years before it was mandated by the U.S. FDA. By 1985, we were listed among the Fortune 500 largest publicly held companies in America.
1983 Expansion into Neurostimulation
Building off the science of using electrical stimulation to pace the heart, Medtronic collaborated with French doctors to pioneer the world’s first deep brain stimulation system to treat movement disorders.
1985-1990 New Products, New Markets
In the second half of the decade, increased R&D led to the development of the world’s first implantable drug pump. The acquisition of nearly a dozen companies took Medtronic into new markets — tissue heart valves, cardiopulmonary equipment, coronary angioplasty catheters, and centrifugal blood pumps.
1989 Growth in Core Technologies
By 1989, the company had expanded its core technologies from electrical stimulation and mechanical devices to include drug and biologics delivery, and diagnostics and remote monitoring.
By 1991, annual revenues had reached $1 billion. Over the course of the decade, acquisitions and product development expanded options in treating heart and spinal conditions.
1990-1993 Employee Resource Groups Established
Medtronic established three employee groups representing three cross sections of Medtronic employees — Medtronic Women’s Council (1990), Asian Employee Resource Group (1992), and Black Employee Network (1993). The groups shared the common goal of enabling employees to reach their full potential at Medtronic by facilitating cooperation and understanding, removing barriers, and providing development opportunities and support.
1996 Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators
By 1996, the increased R&D from the previous decade paid off when Medtronic introduced the first two in its line of implantable cardioverter defibrillators. These devices are designed to treat tachycardia – a dangerously fast heartbeat.
1999 Expansion into Spinal Care
In 1999, Medtronic made headlines by acquiring spine leader Sofamor Danek Group to augment its growing spine and biologics business. Among Sofamor Danek’s assets was a fledging-but-promising project to develop a bone graft product for fusing the spine, a morphogenetic protein called rhBMP-2.
The decade 2000-2009 brought many firsts and new, expanded facilities to accommodate growth.
2001, 2009 New facilities
At the start of the decade , we opened our new headquarters in Fridley, Minnesota. At the end of the decade, Medtronic University opened its virtual doors, providing employees with comprehensive training and education for leadership, technology, and functional development through both classes and online learning.
2001 Expansion into Diabetes Care
Medtronic bought diabetes market leader MiniMed, where a team of biomedical engineers had developed a continuous glucose monitor — a key component of a closed-loop diabetes management system. In doing so, we took a major step toward enabling people around the world to better manage diabetes.
2002 First Remote Monitoring System
Medtronic introduced the industry’s first remote monitoring system, designed to securely transfer data from select patient devices to authorized doctors via the internet.
2002 Advances in Spinal Care
In 2002, the company gained market approval for a threaded titanium cage that stabilized the spine and encouraged new bone growth. The product eliminated the need for painful bone grafts for spinal fusion patients. It won a 2008 Prix Galien USA Award — the medical industry’s highest accolade for pharmaceutical research and development — for improving the human condition.
2006-2010 Transcatheter Heart Valves
Medtronic received European regulatory approval in 2006 and U.S. regulatory approval in 2010 to sell the transcatheter pulmonary valve — one of four types of heart valves that can be implanted via a minimally invasive surgery. In 2009, Medtronic acquired CoreValve LLC to bring transcatheter aortic valves to patients with severe aortic stenosis.
In 2007, we adopted an Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Management System and an Environmental Sustainability Policy. Shortly followed by our first Environmental Sustainability and Governance Report issued in 2008.
The decade was marked by a large acquisition, the introduction of cutting-edge products by each division, and a period of tremendous geographic growth. By 2013 we developed, manufactured, and marketed our therapies in more than 140 countries, double the number served in 1974.
2010-2013 Growth in China
We opened a Patient Care Center in Beijing in 2010, offering hands-on education for available therapies. We also partnered with a local medical-device manufacturer to bring life-changing spinal and orthopedic products to Chinese patients and their physicians.
2011 Strides in Sustainability
Medtronic implemented a two-tiered, cross-functional management structure to drive sustainability performance and reporting across the enterprise. Five years later, we launched a Responsible Supply Management function to support socially and environmentally responsible business practices from our suppliers.
2015 Covidien Acquisition
Medtronic completed the acquisition of Covidien on January 26, 2015, a significant milestone in the company's history. Bringing together the extensive capabilities of both companies strengthened the Medtronic commitment to solve some of healthcare’s greatest challenges, enabling us to help treat more people, in more places, than ever before.
2015 Environmental Goals
The Environmental, Health and Safety Vision 2015 was implemented to bring consistent management of environmental impacts across our global facilities, products and supply chain. Four years later we surpassed four of our five 2020 goals with reductions in energy use, emissions, non-regulated waste, and water use.
Medtronic Labs was launched as a social business to expand access to healthcare for underserved patients, families, and communities around the world. Medtronic Labs designs, builds, and scales technology-enabled service delivery models that address critical barriers across the care continuum.
2011-2019 Cutting-Edge Products
Medtronic continued to blaze new trails in pacemaker technology:
In addition, new products opened up other options for patients and healthcare providers:
2013 Medtronic Women’s Network and Gender Equity
In 2013, Medtronic created employee networks in addition to employee resource groups to enable strong accountability from leadership. For example, Medtronic Women’s Network (MWN) and the Medtronic Global Mentoring Program were established in 2013 to increase employee development opportunities and advance women in leadership positions. By the end of the decade, Medtronic had achieved 100% gender pay equity in several countries, including the United States, and 99% global gender pay equity. Further, women held 38% of global management positions — bringing us closer to our 2020 target of at least 40% or more and our ultimate aspiration of 50% or more globally.
The start of a new decade was busy — efforts to strengthen our diverse and inclusive workforce and a transition to new leadership.
2020 Diverse and Inclusive Workforce
Medtronic created a Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer role to elevate the company's longstanding commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity. We were proud to receive a Catalyst Award, a global recognition for efforts to drive inclusion and advance women in leadership roles.
2020 Guided by Our Mission During a Pandemic
As COVID-19 swept the globe, we looked to our Mission for guidance. Led by our new CEO, Geoff Martha, we drew inspiration from our Mission to act quickly in support of the pandemic response. Over the course of a few months, Medtronic:
Medtronic remains committed to the cause as we look for ways to collaborate and support the response efforts. Read more about what we’re doing in the global fight against coronavirus.