Frank Pantridge

Frank Pantridge

James Francis "Frank" Pantridge, MD, CBE (October 3, 1916, Hillsborough, County Down – December 26, 2004) was a physician and cardiologist from Northern Ireland who transformed emergency medicine and paramedic services with the invention of the portable defibrillator.

He was educated at the Queen's University of Belfast, graduating in medicine in 1939. During World War II he served in the British Army and was awarded the Military Cross during the Fall of Singapore, when he became a POW. He served much of his captivity as a slave labourer on the Burma Railway.

After his liberation he worked as a lecturer in the pathology department at Queen's University, and then won a scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he studied under Dr. F. N. Wilson, a cardiologist and authority on electrocardiography.

Frank Pantridge returned to Northern Ireland in 1950, and was appointed as cardiac consultant to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast and professor at Queen's University, where he remained until his retirement in 1982. There he established a specialist cardiology unit whose work became known around the world.

By 1957 Pantridge and his colleague, Dr. John Geddes, had introduced the modern system of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for the early treatment of heart attack. Further study led Frank Pantridge to the realization that many deaths resulted from ventricular fibrillation which needed to be treated before the patient was admitted to hospital. This led to his introduction of the mobile coronary care unit (MCCU), an ambulance with specialist equipment and staff to provide pre-hospital care.

To extend the usefulness of early treatment, Pantridge went on to develop the portable defibrillator, and in 1965 installed his first version in a Belfast ambulance. It weighed 70 kg and operated from car batteries, but by 1968 he had designed an instrument weighing only 3 kg, incorporating a miniature capacitor manufactured for NASA.

His work was backed up by clinical investigations and epidemiological studies in scientific papers, including an influential 1967 "The Lancet" article. With these developments, the Belfast treatment system, often known as the "Pantridge Plan", became adopted throughout the world by emergency medical services. The portable defibrillator became recognised as a key tool in first aid, and Pantridge's refinement of the automated external defibrillator (AED) allowed it to be used safely by members of the public.

Although he was known worldwide as the "Father of Emergency Medicine", Frank Pantridge was less acclaimed in his own country, and was saddened that it took until 1990 for all front-line ambulances in the UK to be fitted with defibrillators. He was awarded the CBE in 1978.

The City of Lisburn, Northern Ireland commissioned this Memorial in his name, and it sits outside the Lisburn City Council Offices. [ [ Army Medic › 1. Forums › AMS through the ages › AMS through the ages › Professor Pantridge ] ]


* "A Mobile Intensive-Care Unit in the Management of Myocardial Infarction." "The Lancet", 1967.
* "The Acute Coronary Attack", 1975.
* "An Unquiet Life", 1989 - his autobiography.


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