Robert K. Jarvik

Robert K. Jarvik
The Jarvik-7 artificial heart. Courtesy: Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.
Associated organizations
Jarvik heart, Inc
Fields of study
Biomedical engineering


Dr. Robert K. Jarvik is an American physician and biomedical scientist famous for inventing the first total artificial heart implant – the Jarvik-7.

After attending Syracuse University, Jarvik received a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the New York University and an M.D. from the University of Utah. He worked with Willem Kolff, his mentor at the University of Utah in the ongoing artificial organs program in the early 1970s. The program had used a pneumatic artificial heart design named Kwan-Gett to sustain a patient for 10 days. Jarvik designed a new artificial heart, that overcame the problems of the Kwan-Gett heart and it was the first heart that successfully revived a dying patient with the intention of life-long support. Patients with the Jarvik-7 artificial heart implant still required heavy medication and had restricted mobility, but it was a considerable development upon earlier artificial heart models. In 1982, the Jarvik-7 was implanted into a retired dentist at the University of Utah, who survived for almost four months. This received a lot of press coverage, making Jarvik a well-known medical scientist, not only in the US, but globally.

Dr. Jarvik later moved towards medical entrepreneurship. In 1978, he formed the company Symbion, Inc. at Salt Lake City, which manufactured the artificial heart Jarvik-7. In 1987, he founded the Jarvik Research, Inc. in New York City and started manufacturing the Jarvik 2000, a lifetime left- ventricular Assist system. Dr. Jarvik is now the President and CEO of Jarvik heart, Inc.