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Draft Leon Katz (biomedical engineer)

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Leon Katz OC Ont PEng (Biomedical Engineer) Leon Katz OC OOnt (Biomedical Engineer)
Leon Katz, OC OOnt (December 20, 1924 – January 9, 2015) was a Canadian biomedical engineer.
Early Life and Education
Katz was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Regina (née Fang), and Harry Katz, both of whom had immigrated in the early 1900’s, from Czernowitz, Rumania ( fleeing poverty and antisemitic pogroms (
Katz graduated Commercial High School in June 1941, with top honours, receiving a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical Engineering: Communications) ( in 1950 from McGill University. On March 5, 1950, Katz married Ruth Gottlieb. They had four offspring.
Military Service
In 1943, Katz volunteered for active service. As a Canadian soldier stationed in England and fluent in the German language, Katz was seconded to the British Army of the Rhine’s (BAOR) Control Commission for Germany (CCG). Later stationed in Dusseldorf, a heavily bombed city in the American Zone, Katz served in the CCG’s Joint Special Investigations Detachment, enforcing Military Government Laws. In recognition of his military service, Leon Katz was awarded the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (CVSM), the Clasp to the CVSM, the War Medal 1939-45, and the General Service Badge. His gave personal testimony about his WWII service to The Memory Project (
Biomedical Engineering Career
In 1950, while enrolled in McGill’s Graduate School, Physiology Department, Leon Katz was hired by Dr. Herbert H. Jasper (, Chairman of Experimental Neurology at McGill University and at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI)(
Katz worked with Leslie A. Geddes, Head of the Engineering and Technology section at the MNI ( They developed medical instruments, devices, and technologies for Dr. Wilder Penfield, for his pioneering brain-mapping surgeries and services to treat brain-related diseases (, including a neurostimulator with radio-frequency isolated probe, a multi-channel system for recording brainwaves from the exposed cortex, fine-wire leucotomes, and glass microelectrodes for recording signal from individual brain cells. Katz often assisted Penfield during surgeries.
From 1952-55, Katz served as Director and Co-founder of the first Canadian medical Radio-Isotope Laboratory, located at the Jewish General Hospital ( Concurrently, while pursuing graduate studies in physiology, Katz conducted pioneering work on cardiac pacing at the Université de Montréal (é_de_Montréal) with Dr. Jean-Jacques Lussier, and Dr. Jack Hopps ( at the National Research Council ( To meet the challenges of both internal and external pacing, Katz constructed a unique stimulator with widely variable pulse parameters.
From 1955-60, Katz served as Director of the Biomedical Engineering Division, with the Founder of the Institut de Cardiologie de Montréal (, Dr. (Senator) Paul David ( (
(éal/dp/2891610040): Dr. David was appointed by La Communauté des Soeurs Grises, an Order of Grey Nuns (ttps:// dedicated to hospital care. Katz designed the operating theatre for cardiac surgery, eventually designing numerous cardiac catheter laboratories across the province of Quebec. Katz assisted in hundreds of experimental surgery procedures to solve the numerous problems associated with whole-body perfusion during open heart surgery. He ultimately designed and hand-constructed an original heart-lung bypass machine, with monitoring and control instrumentation. In response to the particular needs of Dr. Osman Philip Gialloreto ( ), he researched, designed and organized the construction of the haemodynamics and cardiac catheterization clinical laboratory. In response to the needs of Dr. Léo Laflèche and Dr. Edouard Gagnon, (, Leon Katz, then Chief of the Biophysics Service, established, managed, and stocked a human Homograft Bank, with lyophilized grafts. Because commercial vascular grafts were not yet available, the surgeons used these human grafts in emergency, life-and-death cases of aortic aneurisms, coarctation of the aorta, and other urgent arterial repairs. To produce the homografts, Leon Katz devised, constructed, and operated an original lyophilization system that used liquid nitrogen and very high vacuum drying under very rigorous sterility conditions. To access the homografts, Katz established for the medical personnel, a meticulous procedure for categorizing, keeping from infection, and withdrawing grafts from the bank to match every anticipated surgical requirement.
From 1960-1973 Leon Katz served as Director, Biomedical Engineering, and Chief Perfusionist for Open Heart Surgery, at Hôpital Notre-Dame (ôpital_Notre-Dame). Katz was particularly active in several important medical specialty fields, training and teaching. He was involved in cardiac surgery (devising and inventing new methods to measure, monitor, and control the oxygen saturation of the hemoglobin, the partial pressure of oxygen dissolved in the plasma, and the pH of the blood during perfusion); he designed cardiac operating rooms and served as Perfusionist in hundreds of open-heart, cardio-pulmonary bypass operations. In the field of Radiology, he invented a high-speed injector, using compressed air in a piston for lymphoangiography diagnostic procedures. In Obstetrics, using innovative electronic subtraction techniques and the newly available low-noise transistors, bandwidth filters, and operational amplifiers, Leon Katz researched, designed and hand-built an original fetal cardiotachometer – possibly the first in the world. For the Pain Clinic, Katz produced a number of different biofeedback sensing, amplifying, and display devices. For the Otolaryngology Department, to detect, diagnose, and treat vestibular diseases, Katz designed, built and installed in the vestibular laboratory an original rotating chair with very tightly controlled speed, acceleration, deceleration, start and stop times, reversal time, and saw-tooth motions: he transmitted the ENG signal via short-range wireless telemetry to solve the problem of ENG electrodes that could not be connected directly to the pen recorder. Katz made equally significant contributions in neurology, neurosurgery, EEG, and differential pressure determinations in atherosclerotic carotid arteries.
From 1965-70, Katz also founded, and was Chief Biomedical Engineer of a commercial medical device manufacturing company - Medco Instruments Inc., later aquired by Air Shields Incorporated. During this period, Katz designed and developed a number of critical-care medical products that were subsequently mass-produced and sold throughout the world, including an infant apnea monitor, the Air Shields Infant Incubator, external cardiac pacemakers, a DC Defibrillator, an electrocardioscope, a digital cardiotachometer.
From 1973-88, Katz was Chief, Diagnostic Devices Division, and Evaluation and Standards Division, Bureau of Medical Devices, Health Protection Branch, Health and Welfare Canada ( Leon Katz was responsible for the investigation, resolution, and corrective actions of more than 1,700 reported problems with medical devices. Katz conducted or directed a team of researchers and technicians in hundreds of high-priority investigations. In particular, he investigated over thirty high-priority concerns related to medical devices, and authored, or participated in corrective measures to reduce or eliminate the hazards that until then threatened the health and lives of Canadians. Some of the high-priority devices which benefited from Leon Katz’s single or joint investigative and corrective actions included: cardiac pacemakers, evacuated blood-collection tubes, acupuncture devices, pregnancy test kits, patient restraint and safety vests, safety and effectiveness of home-use devices, misconnection of connectors, Foley catheters, fraudulent or ineffective devices sold to the public, hospital beds and side rails, child-safe medicine bottles.
Publications, Awards and Honours
1956-1989 Authored 73 scientific and technical papers, published in leading medical and scientific journals.
2003 Induction as an Officer of the Order of the Good Bear, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Foundation
2006 Member Emeritus Award received from the Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society (CMBES)(
2006 Living Legend Award received at the 16th World Congress of the World Society of Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons (
2006 Order of Ontario (
2008 Officer of the Order of Canada (
2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (
2014 Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada (
2019 Leon Katz Tennis Courts tribute plaque unveiled - St-Luke's Park, Cartier Street, Ottawa (
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