His Medical Device Inventions Were Absolute “Zingers”!

Ear thermometer patent
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Did you know that ONE inventor is responsible for the invention of both the ear thermometer and an instrument to measure calories?   Dr. Theodor Benzinger passed away several years ago, but his medical device patents live on in a variety of applications and apparatuses. It shows us his deep connection to patients and his unrivaled ability to turn ideas into reality. There were all “Zingers” – providing great inspiration for all medical device entrepreneurs!

In fact, he helped create a tangential field called biothermodynamics while working at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda.  Besides the two inventions mentioned above, he held patents for over 40 inventions. What is especially interesting is his affinity toward temperature regulation in the human body.

The thermometer came about due to a particular challenge:  how does one measure a person’s temperature with a reading as close as humanly possible to the brain temperature which controls our core body temperature.   Since the hypothalamus and the eardrum both share blood vessels, he suddenly realized that the ear canal may hold the answer.  Until this point, doctors had relied on clumsy electrodes attached to the hypothalamus to measure brain temperature.  Other methods involved inserting thermometers in the rectum and mouth; or under the arm. 

His monumental patent for the ear thermometer described a process whereby the “The clinical ear thermometer permits the temperature of the tympanic membrane to be measured without the annoyance resulting from prolonged contact with this membrane. With the method of the present invention, there is an initial contact between the ear thermometer and the membrane, but this contact is made very briefly in order to manipulate the sensor to its proper position which may be approximately one millimeter away from the membrane. This transitory contact is necessary since the probe preferably should be as close as possible to the membrane without actually touching it. “

The good doctor was full of good ideas that took place outside the ear canal, too.

He is also responsible for giant strides made in the field of calorimetry.  His patent for a heat-burst microcalorimeter describes method (and medical device) used to measure the precise magnitude and rate of heat flow produced as a consequence of chemical or biochemical reactions and the like.

By building a large-sized microcalorimeter he was able to measure the amount of heat radiating from a patient. In other words, how many calories a person is burning!

We take many of his medical device ideas fore granted in the modern age. Hi inventions have lately been applied to mobile apps or enhanced by digitization and automation. Yet his primary skill was focusing on certain aspects of the  human body and becoming an absolute expert in them. As he grew older, he deliberately imagined and perfected devices that could be used in any doctor’s office. Whether you are a doctor or a medical device inventor, follow Dr. Benzinger’s example and creatively apply your creativity towards solving common problems in healthcare!

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