In the early 20th century, polio was one of the most dreaded diseases in industrialized countries, crippling hundreds of thousands of children each year.
A highly contagious disease, polio attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis, disability, and even death. Symptoms -- pain and weakness, fatigue and muscle loss -- can occur at any time 15 to 50 years after the initial illness.
In 1952, more than 21,000 Americans contracted a paralytic form of polio, and 3,000 died from it. Once infected, there was no cure other than taking care of the symptoms and symptoms.
No device is more linked to polio than a tank respirator, known as the iron lung. Before its invention, children with polio often died. Physicians treating people in the acute, early stages of polio noticed that many patients were unable to breathe when the action of the virus paralyzed muscle groups in the chest.
The first iron lung used to treat polio victims was invented by Philip Drinker, Louis Agassiz Shaw, and James Wilson at Harvard, and tested on October 12, 1928, at the Children's Hospital in Boston.
The original drinker iron lunge was powered by an electric motor attached to two vacuum cleaners and worked by varying the pressure inside the machine.