Statement on the death of Dr. Bernard Lown


See Also: Timeline of Dr. Lown’s Life

Brookline, MA Dr. Bernard Lown, pioneering cardiologist, humanitarian, and founder of the Lown Institute, died today at the age of 99. He was a remarkable clinician, scientist, and visionary who will be remembered long into the future. 

As a scientist, Dr. Lown did seminal work on sudden cardiac death. He was co-inventor of the modern direct current defibrillator, a device that revolutionized the practice of cardiology and saved countless lives. He created one of the first cardiac intensive care units and transformed the treatment of heart attack patients. As co-founder of two anti-nuclear proliferation groups, his activism united doctors across the globe during the Cold War, opening the eyes of millions to the dangers of nuclear weapons and earning a Nobel Peace Prize. He was one of the first physicians to recognize the importance of overtreatment and the power of money to corrupt his beloved profession.  

Above all, he advocated for social justice and peace, and worked tirelessly to create the health system we all want and need. At the Lown Institute, we continue to be inspired by Dr. Lown’s bravery, heart, and vision, and we are proud to carry on his legacy in our work.

Statement from Dr. Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute

“Bernard Lown was one of the greatest physicians of the last, or any century, and I was privileged to call him my teacher, colleague, and friend. Dr. Lown embodied a rare combination of technical skill, scientific acumen, and profound humanism. His commanding yet deeply comforting presence allowed him to connect with his patients in a way that was truly dazzling to generations of young doctors in training at Harvard. He showed us what it meant to be a healer and a citizen of the world. His commitment to social justice and a radically better health care system illuminated his belief that medicine must exist beyond the clinic to be true to its highest calling. If the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, Bernard Lown helped move it closer to that destination while continuously challenging everyone else to do the same.”

— Dr. Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute

Statement from Dr. Patricia Gabow, chair of the Lown Institute Board of Directors

“On behalf of the board of the Lown Institute, I would like to express the great sadness we feel on learning that our founder, Dr. Bernard Lown, has died. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and his large circle of friends and admirers. Dr. Lown’s dedication, not only to the well-being of his patients, but to all the world’s people, is a testament to what a single person committed to doing good can achieve. We look forward to carrying out the work of the Institute in a manner that honors the skill, wisdom, and courage that he brought to bear throughout his long and influential career.”

 — Dr. Patricia Gabow, chair of the Lown Institute Board of Directors.

About the Lown Institute

Founded in 1973 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Bernard Lown, MD, developer of the defibrillator and cardioverter, the Lown Institute advances civic leadership, accountability, and value in health care. The Institute believes a radically better system of health is possible and generates bold ideas to that aim. The Lown Hospitals Index, a signature project, is the first hospital ranking focused on civic leadership and includes measures like inclusivity by race, avoidance of overuse, and pay equity.


Aaron Toleos, VP Communications,, (617) 992-9349