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Knife-wielding Robots and Frankenstein’s Monster

19 January 2012

I’ve been having a read through the book written to celebrate the 5oth anniversary of the Medtronic Mission and thought the story of the childhood of our co-founder, Earl Bakken, was worth sharing.  It can be amazing what childhood fascinations can lead to.

“Medtronic’s co-founder Earl Bakken was fascinated by electricity from an early age.  Even as a toddler, he played with wires, cords, plugs and connectors – leading an uncle to warn his encouraging mother, “That boy’s going to electrocute himself someday”.  But his mother kept Earl supplied with spare parts, and he spent much of his suburban Minneapolis childhood wiring up his own creations, such as a private telephone system to a buddy’s house and a cigarette-smoking robot.

In high school, Earl drew plans for radios, rocket ships, and futuristic houses with all the electrical wiring in place, and was the self-described go to “nerd” who took care of the public address system, movie projector, and other electrical equipment at school.

But the pivotal moment in Earl’s life came somewhat earlier, at the age of eight or nine, as he sat watching a matinée showing of Boris Karloff’s 1931 Frankenstein – the story of a “mad scientist” who brings to life a man he has created in his laboratory.  At the time, Earl was fascinated by the fact that electricity could do more than light up a room. He was still too young to understand its implications for helping others; still too young a few years later when his pastor admonished him to use his scientific skills to benefit humankind.  Yet in retrospect, these two events sparked Earl’s transformation from tinkerer to healer.”

You can access an online copy, or order a hard copy of the Medtronic Mission book here.

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