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July 1981

The First Published Report of an Incubator for Use in the Care of the Premature Infant (1857)

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Children's Hospital Medical Center, and the Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Am J Dis Child. 1981;135(7):658-660. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1981.02130310062020

The first report to describe an incubator developed for care of the premature infant was written by Jean-Louis-Paul Denucé (1824-1889) of Bordeaux, France.1 About 400 words long, citing no references, and published in the Journal de Médecine de Bordeaux in 1857, it described a double-walled zinc tub in which the space between the walls was filled with warm water (Fig 1).

A similar double-walled metal incubator had been developed as early as 1835, at the suggestion of Johann Georg von Ruehl (1769-1846), physician-in-ordinary to the Czarina Feodorovna, wife of Czar Paul I, for use at the Imperial Foundling Hospital in St Petersburg.2,3 Around 1850, a modification of Ruehl's incubator (Fig 2) was in use at the Moscow Foundling Hospital, an institution founded in 1764 by order of Catherine the Great; by the mid-1850s, this hospital was said to have had more than 40 of these "warming tubs" (Wärmewannen

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