Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Forrest Bird, inventor of the first reliable, low-cost, mass-produced
medical respirator, was born in Stoughton, Massachusetts in 1921. His father,
a World War I pilot, encouraged him to fly, and at the age of 14, young Bird
took his first solo flight in an airplane. By 16, he was working toward several
high-level pilot certifications.
A few years later, Bird entered the Army Air
Corps and, during World War II, he became a technical air training officer.
During that period, airplanes were being built that could fly higher than ever
before, exceeding altitudes at which pilots could breathe unaided. This provided
Bird his first opportunity to develop technology which could assist breathing.
After an Air Corps physician presented him textbooks on mammalian pathophysiology,
he became a lifelong student of the subject.
Bird attended a number of medical schools and completed several residencies.
This knowledge eventually led him to develop the prototype Bird Universal Medical
Respirator for acute or chronic cardiopulmonary care. Bird founded Bird
Products Corporation in 1954 to market and develop his device. Beginning
in 1958, he tested it by traveling to medical schools; there he would ask doctors
for their most ill patients, for whom known therapies had failed and death by
cardiopulmonary failure was expected.
In some cases, patients involved in Bird's test cases died, but many times
they survived. His respirator model, which came to be known as "the bird," succeeded.
Furthermore, his testing allowed him to make important improvements on his designs.
His small, green box-like apparatus quickly became a common piece of equipment
in hospitals around the world. In 1970, Bird introduced the "Babybird" respirator,
which reduced infant mortality due to respirator problems from 70% to less than
Today, over 40 years later, Bird Products is part of Thermo
Electron's division of biomedical companies. Bird Products is considered
a worldwide leader in the respiratory care industry and has continued advancement
in technologies that offer the greatest clinical benefit to patients.
Based on the research conducted by its founder, Bird Products has developed
a number of advanced breathing-related medical devices and technologies, and
Dr. Bird himself continues to be very active in contributing to the team's work.
The V.I.P Bird® Infant Pediatric System was introduced in 1992, specifically
designed for the neonatal, infant and pediatric patient population. The TBird
Ventilator Series is the world's first and only ventilator that can move with
the patient from each clinical setting to the next without interruption.