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Bragg-Paul Pulsator, model II, Europe, 1938-1939

The Bragg-Paul Pulsator was designed to give artificial respiration to patients who could not breathe for themselves because of illnesses such as diphtheria or during brain surgery. An air bag was placed around the patient’s chest and abdomen and rhythmically inflated and deflated by an electric pump, moving the chest muscles and allowing the patient to breathe. The apparatus was invented in 1933 by Sir William Henry Bragg (1862-1942), an English physicist, for a friend who was experiencing muscle paralysis. Bragg’s friend used the Pulsator for three years. Robert William Paul (1869-1943), an English scientific instrument maker (who had also been a pioneer of cinema) designed the apparatus. This example was given to the Royal Institution in 1940 “for the guidance of future production”.

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Glossary: paralysis

The loss of function in one or more muscle groups. It causes loss of mobility and feeling.

Glossary: diphtheria

An acute highly contagious infection, generally affecting the throat but occasionally other mucous membranes and the skin. Diphtheria has been largely eradicated due to world-wide vaccination efforts.

Glossary: ventilator

A machine which mechanically assists patients in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Often used when a patient has difficulty breathing.