The Both mechanical respirator.

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The Both mechanical respirator. Public Domain Mark. Source: Wellcome Collection.

About this work


This film in two parts shows the mechanism of an artificial respirator (an iron lung); a female patient is shown being placed in the machine and then cared for by nurses (she is fed, groomed and given an enema). The second part starts with instructions as to what to do if there are electrical or mechanical faults in the machinery. 3 segments.


[Place of publication not identified], s.n.], [1939]

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (14:20 mins) : silent,black and white



Copyright note

Copyright previously held by Nuffield

Terms of use

Public Domain Mark

Creator/production credits

A School Films Production. Directed by CLG Pratt MA MD MSc, Photography & Production by Norman Spurr.


The Both portable respirator was invented by an Australian engineer, E. T. Both. Both iron lungs went on to be manufactured by Lord Nuffield in England from the late 1930s onwards and then were distributed all over the British Empire, including Australia. There is an example of the iron lung featured in this film at the Science Museum, London. Iron lungs were used to provide artificial respiration caused by paralysis most often brought upon by contracting polio.
Material from the film collection comprising of 55 items donated by Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, Oxford, to the Wellcome Trust in 2008. In 1937, Lord Nuffield established a clinical chair of anaesthesia in Oxford amidst some controversy that anaesthesia was even an academic discipline. The collection is a mixture of clinical and educational films made or held by the department to supplement their teaching dating from the late 1930s onwards.


Segment 1 Opening Credits. A mechanical respirator (iron lung) is shown being prepared for a patient. It is plugged in and a rubber membrane fitted.A female patient is shown being placed in the machine by two nurses and a doctor. The patient's head is inserted through the membrane and then her neck is lubricated with lanolin (to prevent chaffing on the neck). The patient is fed and groomed. Time start:00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:06:59:00 Length: 00:06:59:00
Segment 2 She is only partially paralysed which means that the machine can be unhinged, then adjusted so that she can be bathed; she is given an enema. The same patient is shown as if she was completely paralysed with respiration being performed by the Oxford inflator. Intertitle; This film was made under the supervision of the Department of Anaesthetics - University of Oxford. End of Part One. Time start: 00:06:59:00 Time end: 00:10:43:00 Length: 00:03:44:00
Segment 3 Part Two; starts with instructions as to what to do if the (electricity) current supply fails; there is a manual pump mechanism which is demonstrated. Other ways of managing repairs are shown - such as repairs to the rubber bellows.The End. Time start: 00:10:43:00 Time end: 00:14:21:00 Length: 00:03:38:00


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