The Bakken Museum Honors Founder at Time of Passing

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The Bakken Museum founder Earl Bakken passed away on Sunday, October 22. Earl passed at the age of 94 in his home on the Big Island of Hawaii.

“Earl Bakken was a remarkable man,” said The Bakken Museum Executive Director Michael Sanders. “He proudly described himself as a nerd and wanted to inspire people and especially children to become interested in science and technology.”

When Earl Bakken was eight years old he saw the movie Frankenstein at the Heights Theater in Columbia Heights. Earl was fascinated and inspired by the idea that there might be a connection between invention and life. His interest guided him to receive training in electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota.

In 1949, Earl Bakken co-founded Medtronic with his brother-in-law Palmer Hermundslie in a garage in northeast Minneapolis. From those humble beginnings, Medtronic has grown to become the largest medical device company in the world. While his company was growing, Earl never lost his interest in the history of science and technology and began to collect books and artifacts related to those topics. By the early 1970s, that collection had grown so large that it occupied an entire floor of Medtronic’s headquarters. Realizing he needed a permanent home for his collection, Earl purchased the West Winds mansion on the western shore of Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) and established The Bakken Museum in 1975.

Even later in his life, Earl was still interested in engaging people in STEM education. In 2017, Earl wrote to The Bakken Museum staff, “We want to inspire kids of all ages and backgrounds to understand how exciting science and technology can be, especially when applied to helping humanity and making our world a better place.”

Now located in the historic West Winds mansion on Bde Maka Ska and home to the Florence Bakken Medicinal Gardens, The Bakken Museum maintains Earl Bakken’s world class collection of historic and scientific and medical instruments as well as books, journals and manuscripts. A Smithsonian affiliate, The Bakken Museum offers dynamic exhibit experiences and industry-leading science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) focused education programs.

“Our thoughts are with the family of Earl Bakken at this time of loss,” said Sanders “We are proud to uphold his legacy and share his passion for innovation with youth and adults alike.”


The Bakken Museum

The Bakken Museum inspires a passion for innovation by exploring the potential for science, technology and the humanities to make the world a better place. The museum is Minnesota’s only Smithsonian-Affiliate Museum and features a world-renowned collection of books and artifacts, multiple galleries focusing on the wonders of invention, plant medicine, bio-technology, and science, and The Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden. For more information, visit or call 612-926-3878.