So who was Paul Winchell? His name has probably escaped much of pop culture knowledge these days. In ye olden days of television, Mr. Winchell has a successful ventriloquism act with his dummy, Jerry Mahoney. Watch the clip above, and it’s incredibly amazing how he can convince you that the dummy is alive.
But there are other things you should remember Paul Winchell for. He was also a talented voice actor. Some of you might remember him better as the voice of Tigger. Others may remember him as the voice of Garamel from the Smurfs.
However, his most important contribution to society may not be from ventriloquism, puppetry, or voice acting. From Wikipedia:
Winchell was interested in medicine and was a pre-med student at Columbia University. He graduated from The Acupuncture Research College of Los Angeles in 1974, and became an acupuncturist. He also worked as a medical hypnotist at the Gibbs Institute in Hollywood. Winchell developed over 30 patents in his lifetime. He invented an artificial heart with the assistance of Dr. Henry Heimlich, the inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held the first patent for such a device. The University of Utah developed a similar apparatus around the same time, but when they tried to patent it, Winchell’s heart was cited as prior art. The university requested that Winchell donate the heart to the University of Utah, which he did.
There is some debate as to how much of Winchell’s design Dr. Robert Jarvik used in creating Jarvik’s artificial heart. Dr. Heimlich states, “I saw the heart, I saw the patent and I saw the letters. The basic principle used in Winchell’s heart and Jarvik’s heart is exactly the same.” Jarvik denies that any of Winchell’s design elements were incorporated into the device he fabricated for humans — the Jarvik-7, which was successfully implanted into Barney Clark in 1982.
Winchell established more medical patents while working on projects for the Leukemia Society (now known as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) and the American Red Cross. Some of the other devices he invented and patented include a disposable razor, a blood plasma defroster, a flameless cigarette lighter, an “invisible” garter belt, a fountain pen with a retractable tip, and battery-heated gloves.
Thus, Winchell was also a success inventor as well. Think of that next time you see someone with a ventriloquist dummy. Your first impression may be that he’s a little bit kooky. You might be right. But that harmless kook may also be a brilliant inventor who may be the key to saving your life some day.