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What Surprising Inventions Came from Minnesota?

Discover the Ingenious Creations that Emerged from Minnesota!

Minnesota Innovations

Medical Devices

Minnesota can rightfully boast to be the birthplace of modern medical devices. In the 20th century, world-changing medical innovations were created in Minnesota, and the state's industry is now one of the largest in the world. In fact, Minnesota is often referred to as the 'Medical Alley.'

One of the most significant medical devices created in Minnesota is the pacemaker. A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated medical device implanted in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. In the 1950s, a Minneapolis-based engineer named Earl Bakken and his company, Medtronic, developed the first wearable, transistor-based pacemaker. This invention has saved millions of lives around the world and revolutionized the treatment of cardiac diseases.

Another invention that came out of Minnesota's Medical Alley is the first implantable cardiac defibrillator. An implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) is a small battery-powered device that is implanted under the skin. It constantly monitors the heart rhythm and delivers a shock when it detects an abnormal heart rhythm. The ICD was developed by Michel Mirowski and Morton Mower in the 1970s, both of whom were working at the University of Minnesota. Their invention has saved countless lives and has become a standard treatment for patients at high risk for life-threatening heart rhythms.

Minnesota has also been at the forefront of developing other critical medical devices such as insulin pumps, artificial heart valves, and deep brain stimulators. These inventions have transformed the way that medicine is practiced and have provided millions of people with life-saving treatments.

Overall, the impact of Minnesota's medical device industry cannot be overstated. Devices created in Minnesota have saved countless lives and continue to be some of the most significant medical advancements in modern history.

Medical Devices

Minnesota has been home to some groundbreaking inventions in the medical industry. Innovative doctors and scientists have dedicated their lives to developing medical devices that help improve the quality and longevity of lives. Here are some of the most notable medical inventions that originated in Minnesota.


The invention of pacemakers has been a game changer in the medical field. It has saved millions of lives around the world. Dr. C. Walton Lillehei and his team invented the first wearable pacemaker in 1957 in the University of Minnesota Medical School. The pacemaker was designed to help people with heart problems. It was a small device that could be implanted in the patient's chest and could deliver electrical impulses to the heart muscle, regulating the heartbeat. This compact device has saved the lives of countless people with heart diseases, and it all started in Minnesota.

Artificial Heart Valve

Dr. Albert Starr and Lowell Edwards invented the world's first successful artificial heart valve in 1960 in Minneapolis. Prior to this invention, people with heart conditions had limited treatment options, leading to a shorter life expectancy. The Starr-Edwards valve was a lifesaving option for patients with heart diseases. It is a prosthetic valve that is implanted into the heart to help regulate blood flow. The Starr-Edwards valve has been responsible for countless saved lives and helped establish Minnesota as a hub for medical innovation.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

TENS is a medical device that uses low voltage electrical signals to relieve pain. It is a non-invasive and drug-free option to treat chronic pain. Minnesota-based Medtronic introduced TENS in 1974, making it one of the most successful pain management devices in the world. TENS units have become a popular option for people with chronic pain issues, including arthritis and nerve pain. The invention has helped reduce dependence on painkillers and opioid drugs, making it an essential invention in the medical field today.

Minnesota has become a leading hub for medical research due to the contributions of scientists like Dr. Lillehei, Dr. Starr, and Lowell Edwards. Their inventions paved the way for more medical devices that help improve the lives of millions of people worldwide. As medical research and technology continue to advance, Minnesota is poised to remain at the forefront of medical innovation.

Food Products

Minnesota is home to some of the most iconic food products we enjoy today. These delicious treats have graced our taste buds for generations and continue to be a source of pride for the state. Here are three food products that were either invented or contributed to in Minnesota.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't love chocolate chip cookies? This sweet treat was invented by Ruth Wakefield at the Toll House Inn near Whitman, Massachusetts. Interestingly enough, Wakefield was born in Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota before pursuing a career in cooking.

Wakefield originally intended to make cookies with regular chocolate, but when she ran out, she decided to use broken pieces of Nestle's® semi-sweet chocolate instead. However, the chocolate did not melt as she expected, and the resulting cookies had small bursts of chocolate throughout them. These cookies were an instant hit, and the recipe soon spread throughout the world. In 1987, Wakefield was inducted into the Chocolate Chip Cookie Hall of Fame.

Granny Smith Apples

The Granny Smith apple is a popular variety of apples enjoyed worldwide. This tart and crispy apple was not invented in Minnesota, but its story has deep roots in the state. The parent tree of the Granny Smith Apple was grown from a seed in the garden of Maria Ann "Granny" Smith's cottage in Sydney after she migrated from Minnesota.

Granny Smith, born in England, migrated to Australia at the age of 18. She and her family settled in the Ryde district of Sydney, where she grew the first Granny Smith apple tree. The tree was a seedling from a discarded French crabapple, which she found in a pile of trash and planted in her garden.

Granny Smith realized that the apples from the tree were unique and different from other apples, with a crisp, tart taste that was ideal for cooking. She started selling the apples in the market, and they quickly became popular. Today, the Granny Smith apple is a household name and is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide.

Diet Soda

Lovers of diet soda can thank Minnesota for its invention. In 1952, the first diet soda, called No-Cal Ginger Ale, was invented by Hyman Kirsch in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Kirsch was a businessman who saw a demand for a low-calorie drink that could be enjoyed by people who were dieting.

Kirsch experimented with various recipes and ingredients, and eventually stumbled upon the right formula. His drink was made with cyclamate, a sugar substitute that was 30 times sweeter than sugar but had no calories. He named his drink No-Cal Ginger Ale and marketed it as a diet drink. The drink was a huge success and was soon followed by other diet drinks that used cyclamate as the sweetener. Unfortunately, in 1969, the FDA banned the use of cyclamate due to health concerns, and the search for a new sugar substitute began.

In conclusion, Minnesota has contributed to the food industry in its unique way. From chocolate chip cookies to Granny Smith apples and diet soda, these food products have left an indelible impact on the food world and continue to be enjoyed by people worldwide.


Minnesota has always been at the forefront of technological advancements. In fact, several of the world's most innovative products and services originated from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The state is known for its pioneering computer technology, medical advancements, and more. Here are some of the technological inventions that emerged from Minnesota.

Norton Antivirus

Viruses and malware are the biggest threats to computer users worldwide. However, Minnesota-native Peter Norton was determined to come up with a solution to safeguard computer systems from these threats. In the 1990s, he developed the first version of Norton AntiVirus. Arguably, Norton AntiVirus remains one of the most popular and widely-used antivirus software programs globally today. The platform utilizes modern technology to safeguard computer systems with an emphasis on cybersecurity.

Masking Tape and Scotch Tape

For decades, tapes were a nuisance to stick anywhere on surfaces. However, 3M, which is a notable Minnesota-based manufacturing company, found a solution to this. In the 1920s, 3M developed the first-ever masking tape and scotch tape, which are still in use today. Masking tape is mostly used in painting, whereas Scotch tape has a wide range of applications, from household tasks to office use. Today, both products are part and parcel of everyday life, and their invention has become one of 3M's most significant contributions to technology.

Computer Mouse

The computer mouse is now an essential component for any computer user worldwide. However, not too many people know that the man who invented the device went to the University of Minnesota. Doug Engelbart graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Electrical Engineering in the 1950s. During his studies, he was at the forefront of developing computer hardware technology, including the computer mouse. The device has revolutionized how people interact with computers, and Engelbart's invention continues to be an important technological advancement globally.

Honeycrisp Apple

One of the most popular hybrid apple cultivars today is the Honeycrisp Apple. First developed in the 1960s by the University of Minnesota, the Honeycrisp apple has exploded in popularity in recent years. It is known for its exceptional taste, delicate texture, and long shelf life. In addition, this apple variety is resistant to drought and severe weather conditions, making it a sustainable and stable agricultural product. Thanks to the University of Minnesota, apple lovers worldwide can now enjoy Honeycrisp apples in various forms, from juices to pies to sweet treats.

The pacemaker and implantable defibrillator

The pacemaker and implantable cardiac defibrillator have revolutionized heart health. And while these devices are now commonplace in medical settings, not many people know that they were invented in Minnesota. The pacemaker was first developed by Earl Bakken and his brother-in-law Palmer Hermundslie in the 1950s, in a small garage in Minneapolis. The pacemaker has evolved tremendously in the decades since its invention, becoming smaller, more effective, and more powerful. Similarly, the implantable cardiac defibrillator, which is now a standard of care for patients with heart rhythm issues, was also invented in Minnesota.

In conclusion, Minnesota is a hub of technological advancements, and the state's impact on science and technology continues to inspire people worldwide. As we continue to navigate a rapidly changing technological landscape, we can look to Minnesota's innovation and ingenuity as a model for creating groundbreaking products and services.

Sports Equipment

Sports play an important role in the state of Minnesota, with hockey being the most popular sport in the region. However, Minnesota has contributed to more than just hockey when it comes to sports equipment. Here are some of the sports equipment inventions that originated in Minnesota:

Hockey Mask

Hockey is the state sport of Minnesota, and the goalie mask is an integral part of the game. The origins of the fiberglass goalie mask can be traced back to Jacques Plante, a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens. In the early 1960s, Plante suffered a broken nose and 21 stitches, and he began wearing a mask to protect his face. But it was in Minnesota where the production of goalie masks really began.

The idea for the fiberglass goalie mask was developed in Minnesota with the cooperation of Jacques Plante, John Mariucci, and fiberglass specialist Hal Inglis. The mask was first produced at the University of Minnesota, and it quickly became the standard for goaltenders in the NHL and beyond. Today, goalies of all levels wear masks that owe their design to the work of these Minnesota innovators.

Water Skiing

Water skiing is a popular summer activity that originated in Minnesota. Ralph Samuelson, a native of Lake City, Minnesota, is credited with inventing the sport in 1922. He was inspired by his love of skiing and wondered if he could do it on water. Samuelson experimented with various types of skis and bindings before developing a method of skiing on water using a clothesline and the motorboat of his brother, Ben.

Samuelson's first water ski was made of lumber and was 8 feet long, 9 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. It took Samuelson several tries to stand up on the skis, but once he did, he quickly became an expert and began performing tricks and jumps. Samuelson's invention sparked a new sport that has grown in popularity over the years, with Minnesota remaining a hub of water skiing activity.


Minnesota winters can be long and cold, but that hasn't stopped residents from finding ways to enjoy the snow. One such example is the snowmobile, which was first invented in Minnesota. In the 1950s, Edgar Hetteen, David Johnson, and Orlen Johnson were experimenting with ways to make tractors move through the snow when they hit upon the idea of a machine that could travel on snow and ice.

The trio developed the first snowmobile in Roseau, Minnesota, in 1955. The initial model was called the "Motor Toboggan," and it had a 7-horsepower engine and a top speed of 25 miles per hour. The snowmobile quickly caught on, and by the 1960s, snowmobile races were being held across the Midwest. Today, snowmobiles are popular recreational vehicles that allow people to explore Minnesota's snow-covered landscape.

Cycling Trainer

Cycling is a popular sport in Minnesota, and the state has played a role in the development of cycling equipment. In 2000, Minnesotan Eric Lokken invented the first cycling trainer that attaches to a bike's rear wheel, allowing riders to train indoors.

The idea for the trainer came to Lokken when he was injured and unable to ride outside. He wanted a way to stay in shape and continue cycling, so he created a device that would allow him to train indoors. Lokken created his prototype using a fishing reel, a hose clamp, and a rubber belt. He refined his design and went on to found the company Minoura USA, which produces cycling trainers and other biking accessories.

In Summary

Minnesota may be known for its love of hockey, but the state has also contributed to the world of sports equipment in other ways. From the fiberglass goalie mask to the snowmobile, these inventions have not only made sports more fun but also safer and more accessible. And with innovators such as Eric Lokken continuing to make advancements, Minnesota will likely continue to play a role in shaping the future of sports equipment.


After exploring various inventions, it is evident that Minnesota is a hub of innovation that has contributed to various fields. The state’s unique ecosystem, conducive to innovation, has led to the development of many groundbreaking inventions, enabling it to be at the forefront of various industries.

Minnesota: A Center for Medical Innovation

Minnesota has played a significant role in the development of medical devices that have transformed healthcare worldwide. One of the most notable inventions is the pacemaker, created by Earl Bakken and John Hopps in 1950. The invention has saved millions of lives globally, treating heart disease and restoring heart function. Minnesota is also known for the development of artificial body parts. The Mayo Clinic has developed an artificial heart pump that can extend a person's life until a suitable transplant heart is available.

Minnesota’s Impact on Food Industry

Minnesota has also left its mark on the food industry with its contributions in grain processing. One such achievement is the development of the process for making dry breakfast cereal. This process involves reformulating grain and adding sugar and other additives to create a ready-to-eat product that is convenient and nutritious. Perhaps the most well-known brand is Cheerios, created by General Mills, which is one of the most popular breakfast cereals globally.

Minnesota: A Technology Powerhouse

Minnesota is also known for its contributions in the technology industry. The state houses many leading technology companies, such as 3M, Seagate Technology, and Best Buy. Minnesota has also contributed to the development of computer technology, with the development of the first graphical user interface by the University of Minnesota's Grouputer Project in the 1980s. This technology has been instrumental in the development of modern computer operating systems, including Windows and MacOS.

Sports Equipment Invented in Minnesota

Minnesota is also known for being a hub for the development of sports equipment, with companies like Warrior Hockey, Schutt Sports, and Wenzel Athletics calling Minnesota home. Minnesota’s Sub-Zero company designed and produced hockey rinks for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. What’s more, Tonka Trucks have been around since the 1940s and are still popular among children today for imaginative and interactive playtime.

Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Innovation

Minnesota is at the forefront of renewable energy technology, with the state focusing on promoting the use of clean energy sources. The state is home to over 530 solar companies and ranks eighth nationally for solar power capacity. The state has also invested in wind power, with a capacity of over 4,000 MW, making it the seventh-largest producer in the United States.

Minnesota has undoubtedly made significant contributions to various industries and will continue to shape the future, with its innovative spirit driving its progress. With its unique ecosystem, talented workforce, and innovative spirit, Minnesota is sure to be a hub of innovation for many years to come.

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