Early History of
and American Sigma
The Company was incorporated in
New York State in 1951. At that time it was an allied
corporation of E & M Enterprises, Inc., a special
machine manufacturer. The majority owner of E & M
was Mr. Arthur McDonald. At that time Van G. Hungerford
was sales manager of E & M. The stock holders of
SigmaMotor were all employees or associates of E & M.
E & M was a contract manufacturer and SigmaMotor
was devised to develop a product line to compliment
the jobbing nature of E & M. The initial product
was a type of peristaltic or tubing pump which had
been developed and patented by Ernest R. Cornell, a
DuPont engineer. The pump was to be manufactured and
sold under a license from Mr. Cornell. Since Mr. Hungerford
was in charge of sales, the development of the product
line came under his jurisdiction. The first application
came in the general purpose laboratory field.
for larger view
were several problems inherent in this arrangement, besides the
normal difficulties in marketing a new product. The chief one
was the fact that E & M
was growing rapidly and all the people involved were
overextended at E & M, leaving very little time
for the development of the pump line.
However, in spite of the lack of attention, sales did
grow slowly over the next year or two. The original
pump was redesigned and several different models were
In 1953, Mr. Hungerford received two phone calls
that changed the direction of the Company. The first was
from Dr. C. Walton Lillehei of the University of Minnesota,
requesting help in adapting a standard laboratory pump
into a more suitable unit for his use as a blood pump
in open heart surgery. We immediately went to Minnesota
and observed his fourth cross circulation operation.
C. Walton Lillehei
The technique was a break through in open heart surgery.
Since there were no artificial oxygenators then available
Dr. Lillehei used a donor to provide the oxygenation
of the blood of the patient during the open heart procedure.
Prior to World War II there had been no successful
attempts to operate in or on the heart. During the
war, however, a few young surgeons successfully repaired
a few heart wounds. If the procedure could be completed
in four minutes or under there was a chance of patient
After the war there were various attempts to operate
on the heart and to increase the amount of time that
was available for surgery before brain damage occurred.
In spite of the various attempted methods the chances
of patient survival were minimal.
Dr. Lillehei's cross circulation method gave promise
of becoming a viable procedure with acceptable survival
rate. The first patients were children with Congenital
Septal Defects. The donor was usually a parent with
compatible blood type. A pump was used to move the
blood from the donor to the patient, and then return
the blood to the donor through another tube. The SigmaMotor
pump was selected because two tubes could be pumped
in the same unit. There were many problems involved.
The chief one being the fact that the two lines were
not absolutely identical in route and over a period
of time an imbalance built up in both donor and patient.
We immediately tried to develop units to overcome the
imbalance and other problems as they occurred. Over
a period of years we had four basic model changes and
numerous modifications. During the period from 1953
to 1966 or 1967 we sold about 2700 heart pumps and
worked with almost all of the open heart surgery teams
of that era.
The second phone call was from Dr. Whilham Koiff of
the Cleveland Clinic. He is credited with the invention
and development of the artificial kidney. Dr. Koiff
was also trying to use a laboratory pump to move blood
in his dialysis machine. His problems were not as acute
as those of Dr. Lillehei but they did require a more
accurate flow control. We worked with him through several
modifications and evolved an effective blood pump for
the kidney machine. About this time, Dr. Koiff licensed
the production and sale of the unit to Baxter-Travenol
and we eventually sold almost 5,000 units for use on
Through this association we developed a long standing
relationship with the artificial organ division of
Travenol. SigmaMotor enjoyed many years of providing
various types of equipment to them.
As the glamour of open heart surgery and kidney dialysis
grew, many companies became interested and eventually
the competition became acute. At one point there were
almost as many companies manufacturing open heart machines
as there were annual unit sales and the market was
Some of the open heart teams that had been formed became
interested in using general technique in the chemotherapy
field. It was thought that much higher levels of toxic
materials could be applied to tumors if the organ or
extremity could be isolated and supported by a smaller
heart lung machine. We developed the first of the tumor
perfusion machines in conjunction with the team from
Tulane University headed by Dr. Oscar Creech. While
we made and sold about 100 machines over the next few
years, the technique never lived up to its original
Concurrently with the above developments, however,
an interest was growing in bedside infusion pumps.
The original interest revolved around the need for
controlled infusion during and after surgery. Our first
infusion pumps were designed for use in operating rooms
and intensive care units. As the usage spread from
the OR and ICU to bedside the infusion pumps became
much more complicated, the market much broader and
intense complications developed. The first of the pumps
designed for infusion were shipping in 1961 and several
major redesigns were done through the years. Thousands
of infusion pumps were sold, first by SigmaMotor, then
Sigma Inc., and now Smith and Nephew.
About 1965, we began hearing of the problems being
experienced with a spring driven portable pump which
had just come on the market. We thought a battery driven
would be a better approach and developed the ML line.
were small flow chemotherapy pumps designed to be worn on a harness
for continuous infusion at low rates. The first of these were
shipped in 1965. After a few years of mediocre sales the marketing
of these unites was spun off to Cormed Inc., headed by Gerald
Hilger, a long time employee of SigmaMotor. Under his
ownership, sales were expanded tremendously and the
company was recently sold to C.R. Bard Inc.
ML-6-8 Ambulatory Infusion Pump
While the medical applications of our pumps were being
developed, we had not neglected the laboratory field
which continued to be the foundation of our business.
New models were developed and new applications pursued.
In 1967 we discovered that a few of our laboratory
pumps were being used to obtain samples from waterways
and sewers for pollution analysis. We felt this was
an ideal new use for tubing pumps and proceeded to
develop a small line of pollution sampling units. The
first of these was shipped in 1968. Today American
Sigma Inc. headed by William Hungerford is the second
largest supplier of pollution sampling equipment in
In summary, in the production area, I think SigmaMotor
has been quite innovative for a small company. We were
able to develop the first blood pump for open heart
surgery, the first infusion pump, the first blood pump
used in kidney dialysis, the first of the tumor perfusion
units, and we improved considerably on the portable
In conclusion, a brief word on the recent developments
of the Company may be appropriate. After college, both
my sons, Roger and William came to work for SigmaMotor.
Both were interested in primarily in marketing. Both
became salesmen. Over a period of five or six years
Roger took over the medical part of the company and
Bill took the industrial and pollution areas. Since
I was approaching retirement age I was concerned about
succession. I was convinced that neither one would
be happy working for the other. After considerable
thought and discussion we decided to do a double spin
off. Fortunately both parts of the company were about
equal so an equitable result was accomplished. In the
ensuing five or six years both parts have grown tremendously.
Roger chose to sell to Smith & Nephew, but Bill
is continuing to operate and will be building a new
plant in Medina this year.
Since neither of the boys needed or wanted the machine shop,
I kept it and we are now operating as a jobbing machine shop.
We are one of the suppliers of Smith & Nephew.
July 11, 1989