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July 1981

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

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