Letting Polio Victims Live: Iron Lung
Children's Hospital 1927

Until the mid-1950s polio was a disease which impacted millions. Allowed time after the disease's often-deadly onset, many of polio's symptoms lessen. The development of a device which would let the patient breathe and therefore live was critical. The original respirator, or iron lung, was constructed of a galvanized iron box and two vacuum pumps with hand-operated valves. The device exerted a push-pull motion on the chest.

Harvard medical researcher Phillip Drinker, assisted by Louis Agassiz Shaw, invented the original model. A second machine, manufactured by Warren E. Collins Inc. in Boston, was first used at Children's Hospital by a child suffering from respiratory failure due to polio.


 Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung, A Memoir
by Martha Mason, 2003