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Thanks to the efforts of two Harvard professors, the iron lung has developed from a useless contraption into an instrument indispensable to a modern hospital's equipment.
Dr. Cocil K. Drinker, professor of Physiology and Dean of the Faculty of Public Health, together with his brother Philip, professor of Industrial Hygient, were the first to put the idea of an iron lung across to the public. Due to their efforts 11 years ago, physicians have been able to save an incalculable number of cases of infantile paralysis, electric shock, gas of drug poisoning, acute alcoholism, and drowning.
During the wide spread poliomyelitis epidemic in 1931, there arose an urgent need for some more effective mans to save the live patients with paralysed lungs than the Drinker respirator. To the rescue came John H. Emerson, who was at that time manufacturing scientific apparatus in over Woolworth's on Brattle Street.
The Drinker brothers idea was to use a suction pump to expand a paralytic's chest. Emerson made several improvements; he introduced bellows instead of a suction pump, a much quieter motor, and several conveniences for both nurse and patient.
At a small factory in North Cambridge, Emerson, son of Haven Emerson '95, six helpers are in the iron lung business and have sold over a hundred of their products, which range in price from $1400 to $1800. Into every lung go three automobile jacks, a Chevrolet shackle belt, and three Ford steering knuckles.
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