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November 1994

The Genesis of the Iron LungPhilip Drinker, Charles F. McKhann, James L. Wilson, and Early Attempts at Administering Artificial Respiration to Patients with Poliomyelitis

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148(11):1174-1180. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1994.02170110060009

One of the most dreaded and reproduced images of a disease now largely forgotten by medical professionals and the lay public alike, poliomyelitis, was that of a child trapped in a cumbersome "iron lung" responsible for her every breath.2,3 Despite the cultural icon of 20th-century illness it represents, however, the development of the artificial respirator or iron lung for children and adults stricken with poliomyelitis and respiratory paralysis remains an overlooked yet pivotal chapter in the history of medicine and technology (Figure 1).