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Innovations: Both respirator

Poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio, is a disease caused by a viral infection that affects cells in the spinal cord and the grey matter of the brain. Polio can cause wasting of muscle, sometimes causing paralysis or permanent disability, and respiratory failure. If respiratory failure is severe, artificial respiration is required. To this end, apparatuses known as 'iron lungs' were developed to help polio sufferers breathe.

The iron lung is a sealed cast-iron cabinet in which the entire body, but not head, of the polio victim is encased. The air is removed from the cabinet and the drop in pressure forces the chest to rise creating a cavity in the lungs that is filled with air entering through the nose and mouth. The air is expelled from the lungs when air is let back in to the cabinet. First developed by Phillip Drinker in America in the late 1920s the iron lung was effective, but heavy and expensive.

During a polio epidemic in South Australia in 1937, brothers Edward and Donald Both developed a lightweight version of the iron lung in their small Adelaide factory. As the Both version was made of plywood, it was inexpensive and could be carried easily, allowing sufferers to return home rather than staying in hospital. Edward Both invented several other items of medical equipment during his life, but is also know for his development of the first electric scoreboard in Australia, which was used in the Davis Cup in Adelaide in 1952.

SA inventor of portable iron-lung dies
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The Both respirator
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