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Hometown Kampen celebrates anniversary of dialysis invention

Former assistent of Dr. Kolff receives award

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

KAMPEN, the Netherlands - Professor Dr. Willem Kolff recently visited the Netherlands to help celebrate the sixthieth anniversary of the invention of the artificial kidney. In 1943, physician Kolff and his assistants built the first artificial kidney in the world. Kolff, then a member of the staff at the Kampen Municipal Hospital, has made his home in the U.S. for over 50 years.

The artificial kidney has allowed hundreds of thousands of people all over the world suffering from kidney diseases to take dialysis treatments and lead fairly normal lives. Kolff in the U.S. also was instrumental in the development of other artificial organs, such as the first artificial heart. Still active at age 92, the Dutch American scientist now is one of the specialists working at developing artificial eyes.


The Willem Kolff Festival in the former Kampen hospital also was the stage for the presentation of the prestigious Kolff Prize. This year, the award went to Dr. Jacob van Noordwijk (82), one of Kolff’s assistants in the first development of the artificial kidney during World War II. Kolff himself presented his former colleague the prize, which recognizes those who contributed greatly to innovations in health care.

The rooms and laboratories in the Kampen hospital where the Kolff team built the first dialysis machine, now are a museum.

Willem Kolff was born in Leiden and after his studies set up a family physician’s practice in Groningen. In 1940, he moved to Kampen and in 1946, Kolff received his doctor’s degree when he defended his thesis ‘The Artificial Kidney.’ In 1950, Kolff moved to the U.S. He became an American citizen in 1956.