Dr. Willem Kolff, winner of the 2003 Russ Prize established by Ohio University, died Wednesday at his home in Newton Square, Pa. He was 97.
Considered the father of artificial organs, Kolff engineered the first kidney dialysis machine out of sausage casings and part of an automobile water pump during World War II in Nazi-occupied Holland. He was driven by the experience of seeing a young man suffer through the agony of kidney failure as his body gradually lost the ability to filter out waste. More than 1.2 million people are alive today because of kidney dialysis.
Kolff later developed the heart-lung machine, the intra-aortic balloon pump heart assist device, the artificial eye and the artificial heart made famous by its first human recipient, Barney Clark.
Modeled after the Nobel Prize, the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize recognizes outstanding achievement in an engineering field that contributes to the advancement of science and engineering and improves the quality of life. Fritz Russ, a 1942 Ohio University engineering graduate, and his wife, Dolores, established the $500,000 in 1999 through a multimillion-dollar endowment to Ohio University.
The award is presented biannually by the National Academy of Engineering.
The New York Times published Kolff's obituary Thursday.
-- From staff reports