Portable Ventilator

Ventilators breathe for people when they cannot breathe on their own.

John Emerson was a physician focused on breathing devices who developed the first mass produced iron lung.

Building on Emerson’s work, Bird developed the portable ventilator and, later, created a company, Bird Corp., to commercialize it. Bird Corp. created a home ventilator in 1965, the Mark III. In 1971, Bird created the first infant ventilator.

In 1978, Bird sold his company to 3M. in 1949 but founded two other companies, Percussionaire and Bird Medical Technologies (BMT), to commercialize other innovations. Both Percussionaire, BMT, and the original Bird medical products group in 3M exist in 2018.

Ventilators, both portable and otherwise, vastly lowered mortality rates so much that they created an ethical issue. They can keep a person’s body “alive” despite that the person was brain-dead and would never wake up. Ventilators have led to an ongoing debate about what exactly constitutes death.

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