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Iron Lungs

These were incredible... not one, but five iron lungs in the same room!

Iron lungs were artificial respirators - machines that "breathe" for someone who cannot breathe for themselves by creating positive and negative air pressure around the person's chest to force air in and out of the lungs. Many of these were used extensively in the 40s-50s for people stricken with polio, which paralyzes the diaphragm (the muscle that pushes the air in and out of your lungs). Check out this photograph of an iron lung ward.

Since the polio vaccine was introduced in 1955, these machines have been in operation less frequently, although they are still used in certain cases. According to this website, there are around 200 iron lungs in existance today, although production has stopped since the early 1990's. The page also holds some interesting information about the people who have been in iron lungs, ranging from a few days to over 50 years.

Amazingly, a man named Henry has actually been in one of these lungs and has been kind enough to donate a photo or two of this very room! Check out his photo of the room crica 1989 below, and visit his website at

Iron Lungs

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