Thousands of people depend on dialysis machines and thus on Willem Johan Kolff. The Dutchman developed these during the Second World War and used them from 1943 onwards for patients with acute and chronic kidney failure as well as poisoning. From 1950, he developed the first heart-lung machines as well as artificial organs. The first artificial heart was implanted in a human in 1982. In 1967, Kolff improved the dialysis machine for home use.
The internist published more than 600 papers and was honored many times, for example with the Amory Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1947 and with the highest American medical award, the Albert Lasker Prize, in 2002. In 1990, he was named to the list of the hundred most important Americans of the 20th century. He has received 13 honorary doctorates. The ASAIO presents the Kolff Award, and an annual international symposium on artificial organs is held in his honor.