Emerson Respirator “Iron Lung” serial number TC1, circa 1940s

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Emerson Respirator “Iron Lung” serial number TC1, circa 1940s


Equipment and Supplies


The original “iron lung” respirator was designed by Phillip Drinker with Louis Agassiz Shaw at the Harvard School of Public Health. Its first clinical use occurred on October 12, 1928 at the Boston Children’s Hospital. The subject was an eight-year-old polio victim. In spite of her near-death condition, she recovered within less than a minute of being placed in the chamber. She remained in the respirator for 5 days before dying of cardiac failure. In September 1929 Barrett Hoyt, a Harvard senior dying of polio in the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, was placed in the Drinker respirator and immediately began breathing normally. After four weeks in the lung, Hoyt made a complete recovery. Drinker assigned his respirator patent to Boston manufacturer Warren E. Collins, who began production of the device. In 1931, John Haven Emerson created an improved, less expensive iron lung. By 1935 he had successfully challenged Drinker’s patent and his version was in widescale production from the 1930s through the 1970s. The serial number on this Emerson model, TC1, indicates that it was the first one produced of this particular design.


Circa 1940s


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Warren Anatomical Museum




1 Object


Medical Instruments, Equipment, and Devices


physical object


Warren Anatomical Museum Catalog Number: 22031




“Emerson Respirator “Iron Lung” serial number TC1, circa 1940s,” OnView: Digital Collections & Exhibits, accessed June 28, 2022, https://collections.countway.harvard.edu/onview/items/show/26593.

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