20th Century, History, Mining, Minnesota

Something from Nothing: Taconite Mining in Minnesota

Davis Works, Reserve Mining Company, Taconite Mining Silver Bay, MN. ca. 1955

1955
“Taconite promises to save an Iron Range that is running short of iron. New technology converts low-grade taconite rock into concentrated iron pellets and Reserve Mining Company opens a mine and processing operations.” *

Sometimes, our most brilliant ideas are buried. After the ravages of World War II, and the tremendous steel production demands of those years, the Mesabi Range was largely depleted of its high-grade ore. The race was on to find a way to save these mines and miners from extinction. What could be done to save the world’s first “billion dollar business” a.k.a. United States Steel? ****

Yet, the contest already had chosen a victor in Dr. E.W.Davis. His research into extracting the iron from hard taconite rocks began four decades previous to this moment. During this period, Davis invented an affordable process that unlocked the potential of taconite.

So, what did this method involve? He first needed a way to crush these very hard rocks; an engineering feat in itself. Next, he solved the riddle of removing the iron content of the crushed stone, and chose to use magnetism. The separated iron is next reconstituted into pellets through a tumbling and rolling operation. In this final state, as pellets, they could easily be transported and utilized by the end user when liquified in a blast furnace. ***

At the same time, to commence and fulfill the 19 patents of research by Dr. Davis, the Reserve Mining Company began to retool their operation to refine taconite. This lengthy process of planning spanned the years between 1939-1952 and entailed: reconditioning of plants, acquisition of lands, supporting Davis and his work at the University of Minnesota Mines Experiment Station, water studies, aerial surveys, and proposed harbor modeling. Below is a quotation from “A Chronology of Reserve Mining Company” written by Richard C. Hemmersbaugh.
“XXIV. Operations in Silver Bay.
The first pellets were produced at Silver Bay on October 20, 1955. The first pellets were shipped from the new port of Silver Bay on April 6, 1956. The Managers of the Silver Bay Division were successively, Edwin C. Lampman, Matthew R. Banovetz, Kenneth R. Judkins, James A. Reynolds and David L. Dingeman.”
And
“XXVIII. Reserve Mining Shipments
According to the Minnesota Mining Directory, as of 1986, total cumulative shipments by Reserve Mining Company were 218,839,191 tons of pellets.”

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:29

We now turn to You, Adonai, and sit in reflection with You. We remember Your exceeding greatness today. We pause before Your masterful Creation and Your abilities of re-creation! We remember Your masterful timing and positioning of resources and human lives; before we ask, You have done the homework and spent the eons of time necessary for our provision and the fulfillment of Your purposes. No one is like You, Lord!

We reflect on this single sentence recorded by Jeremiah 2606 years ago. We ponder that You named this man according to his purpose: “the Lord exalts”, “the Lord establishes”, and the Lord “throws down”!? What an apt reminder of Your Sovereignty, and even of the symbolism for a quiet little state in the center of a great continent and our history of taconite mining! You break the rejected waste of our rocky hearts, reform them, and by the fire of the Holy Spirit, remake them into a blessing for us and our neighbors!

Who, but You, could foresee the talents of E.W. Davis? Who, aside from You, could hone his life’s talents and travail so perfectly that at just the right moment he could collaborate with the Reserve Mining Company? Who, apart from YHWH Jireh (the Lord will provide), could serendipitously arrange the decades of planning and research of both of these partners into a single flow of creativity? None but the Almighty could see the end from the beginning: to save the livelihood of thousands of workers, to save an industry, and to turn these rejected waste stones into hundreds of millions of tons of useful building material! With You, nothing is something!

We acknowledge to You the bitter-root judgments and curses of iron and taconite mining in the Range of Minnesota. So much of the best resources You gave were used in war! Once taconite took over, we began tainting the ground water and Lake Superior with the tailings. * We overcame many obstacles, but didn’t see some of the “cause and effect” of these creative actions. Insofar as we offended You in our mining and refining, will You forgive us?

Under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, by His Cross, by His resurrection, and by Your Unchanging Word, will You take this burden: up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ?
In faith, we declare Your forgiveness over these events past, and ask that You breathe life into our present. Be the oversight of this industry, its’ innovators, workers, and the natural resources of the North Star state!

We end this prayer with a declaration of blessing. May we see and foster the growth of inventors like Dr. E. W. Davis! May we be blessed with a workforce that honors You and the future of their neighbors by faithfully executing the daily grind of its dangerous and mostly unrecognized labor! May our future continue in Your security through the diligent planning and administration of the great industries of the North Shore like the Reserve Mining Company! May we receive the blessing of Our Father; the G-d who Makes Something from Nothing!

Watch the process of loading taconite into ships. Scinocca, Paul. “Watch a classic laker loading ore at CN Duluth” November 22, 2019. YouTube. Internet.

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20th Century, History, Medical Technology, Medicine, Minnesota

First Successful Open-Heart Surgery

Dr. Lillehei and Controlled Cross circulation model, https://twitter.com/MedCrisis/status/1227349896119844865

September 1, 1952
“In 1952, after a long process of study, research, experimentation, and practice, Dr. Lillehei performed the first successful open-heart surgery on a human patient who survived.” *

To be more accurate, Dr. Lillehei assisted his colleague and close personal friend at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Floyd John Lewis in this first procedure. Dr. Lewis innovated the model of inducing hypothermia in his patients to slow the de-oxygenation of their blood during the the time the heart is stopped during surgery. While successful, they learned this model’s restricted time window, about ten minutes, was insufficient to deal with problems and complications of open-heart surgery. Dr. Lillehei sought new ways to overcome these limitations. **

For the sake of brevity, I chose to cite the wonderful synopsis written by Andrew B. Stone for the MNopedia tool of the Minnesota Historical Society below. The productivity, innovation, and advancements made by Lillehei and his expert colleagues, friends and collaborators at the University of Minnesota is so staggering that I would be remiss to provide an inaccurate source. Enjoy!

Chronology
“1942
Lillehei graduates from the University of Minnesota Medical School and joins the army as a surgeon in a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) unit.
1945
Lillehei returns to University of Minnesota Medical School as a surgical resident under the supervision of Dr. Owen Wangensteen, chairman of the Department of Surgery.
1951
Lillehei finishes his Ph.D. in surgery and becomes a professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota.
1952
On September 2, Lillehei assists his friend and colleague Dr. John Lewis in performing the world’s first successful open-heart surgery.
1953
Dr. John Gibbon performs a successful open-heart surgery in Philadelphia using an artificial heart-lung machine, but these machines are difficult to use and open-heart surgery remains very dangerous. Several surgeons abandon plans for future operations.
1953
Lillehei and his research assistant, Morley Cohen, seize on the idea of using cross-circulation to perform open-heart surgery, and begin experimenting with dogs in their lab.
1954
On March 26, Lillehei performs the world’s first successful open-heart surgery using cross-circulation on thirteen-month-old Gregory Glidden. Glidden dies eleven days later, but an autopsy confirms that his heart defect had been successfully repaired.
1954
Lillehei performs two more successful open-heart surgeries. He announces these successes at a press conference and becomes world-famous.
1955
In collaboration with Dr. Richard DeWall, Lillehei helps to develop a simpler heart-lung machine and oxygen bubbler, making open-heart surgery safer.
1955
On December 9, Lillehei performs his 100th open-heart surgery, but the patient dies after surgery due to heart block.
1957
Lillehei asks Earl Bakken, an electrician at the University of Minnesota, to create a portable, battery-powered device to cure heart block by regulating heartbeat using electricity. (Author’s note: Bakken went on to found the Minnesota-based company Medtronic; a world innovator in pacemakers and medical technology.) ****
1958
On April 14, Lillehei successfully implants the world’s first portable pacemaker into a patient with heart block, saving the patient’s life.” ***

In the end, we may gain the greatest insights into this event and Dr. Lillehei through an interview with his son. Dr. Craig Lillehei, a pediatric surgeon at Boston children’s hospital, said the following about his father ca. 2014.

“The striking thing about him is that he wasn’t afraid of new ideas. And even sometimes crazy ideas. That he would fully consider them and work through it and see, that sometimes doing some experimentation and whatnot, to find out whether they made sense or not. I think that was number one. I think that number two is that he, sort of, knew the big goals and relentlessly pursued those.” *

Shall we begin our supplications by remembering the ancient nature of surgery? Egypt provided the human race with the first written accounts of human surgeries ca. 17th B.C., so all medical research is standing on the shoulders of at least about 3700 years of similar trial and error. We gratefully recount this foundation that provided the basis for modern scientific surgery, Lord! *

We follow that gratitude with a second praise; that You made Dr. Lillehei eternally curious! This man, whose formal education won him five degrees, remained open to new information, and scientifically embraced failures. Perhaps this is why he so consistently entertained solving “impossible” challenges?

In this, we see a refraction of Your nature and example, beloved Messiah. You astounded critics and cynics by embracing impossible outcomes.
“When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25,26 NIV

A tertiary triumph of the life of Dr. Clarence Walton Lillehei is his example of collaboration, basic trust, and extension of relationship. Though a formidable mind on his own, he forged new paths in science and surgery with friends. And oh, what a cast of incredible human beings he created with: Dr. Owen Wangensteen, Dr. Floyd John Lewis, Morley Cohen, Dr. Richard De Wall, and Earl Bakken to name a few. For these, and surely many others, the State of Minnesota and the human race gives You praise! May we be humbly joyful that You guided all these paths to discovery and greatness; together!

Conversely, we remember also the frailty of the human ego. Quite often, innovators in any field care most about big ideas, and truly want their expertise to better the human race. Being motivated such, it is crucifixion to be blocked or cut out of recognition and acknowledgement! It, for so many doctors and scientists, breaks their hearts and spirits because they are fueled by having a good name rather than wealth. Where we may have failed contributors to science and heart surgery in Lillehei’s era, Will You forgive us? Where corruption, academic pride, or greed trumped researchers, will You have mercy? Will You honor those who silently have contributed so much blessing on the present and future?

As a last thought, we ponder the innovation of cross-circulation. What an apt icon of lovingkindness and self-sacrifice? These scientists and surgeons survived epic wins and failures by providing each others brains with the oxygen of acknowledgement, belief, and radical commitment to their various projects.

In so doing, they cross-circulated the lives of patients with hope. They dreamed impossible dreams, even having to create new vocabulary to describe it to their peers and students. What is this but bringing oxygen to the minds and misbeliefs of others?

We see many present forces running counter to the lofty ideals of Dr. Lillehei. Politicians, more concerned with who gets credit than care, starves the brains of innovation. Insurance providers, sometimes heavily manipulated by the political class, become micro-managers of their patients willingness to risk, thus, starving the bloodstream of hope. We see the limitations of the collectivist utopians and social engineers stifling creative thought, depriving our creatives of the freedom to think. Who will think big and make mistakes in our present and future, if we culturally mandate “correct” thoughts? Are we forcing society into the paradigm of “10 minute heart surgery”?

No! We need more time to fix broken hearts! Ruach ha Kodesh, (Holy Spirt) call on Your counsel to heal us in our sufferings in Minnesota. Your Body, the Ekklesia, dies without collaboration and being present with You and each other! We suffer from arrhythmia of culture; we want to keep beating, but can’t seem to find a common tempo! Will You bless like Dr. Lillehei, to see how our hearts can beat for each other? All is possible in Your Kingdom! Only impart to us belief and basic trust in our fellow man’s heart! Amen.

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