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June 1960

The Surgical Mask: Its Development, Usage, and Efficiency: A Review of the Literature, and New Experimental Studies

Author Affiliations

U.S.A.F.; Oklahoma City
Orthopaedic Resident, University of Oklahoma Medical Center (Capt. Rockwood). Chairman, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery (Dr. O'Donoghue).

AMA Arch Surg. 1960;80(6):963-971. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1960.01290230081010

The history of the surgical mask can be divided into three separate eras, the first being the development and testing of the mask from 1905 to 1920, and the second being the period when the importance of the surgical mask was stressed and new masks were developed, 1920-1940. The third era is one of the unimportance of the mask, secondary to the antibiotic age (1940-?).

The First Era, 1905-1920 

Developing and Testing of the Mask  The development of the mask goes back to 1899, when Flügge, who was working at that time with tuberculosis, developed the droplet theory of infection. At that time crude masks were used, consisting of roller gauze strips placed over the mouth.1Hamilton2 published a paper in 1905 dealing with the dissemination of the Streptococcus through the "invisible sputum." She first brought out the idea of scarlet fever being transmitted through droplet infection and