Meet Legendary Inventor Dr. Bird



Last week, our Founder and CEO, Tamara Müller, and three of our clinicians, had the honor of traveling to northern Idaho to meet the renowned Forrest M. Bird, MD, Ph.D.

An aviator, inventor, biomedical engineer, and World War II veteran, Dr. Bird is a man of many talents and many stories, like the times he met Henry Ford and Orville Wright.

During the short stay at his 300-acre residence and farm – also home to Percussionaire® Corporation and the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center – our team learned about Dr. Bird’s life, passion for innovation, and how he single handedly transformed the world of mechanical ventilation.


Aviation and Mechanical Ventilation


With encouragement from his father who was a World War I pilot, Dr. Bird became interested in aviation at a young age and took his first flight in his early teenage years. An avid aviator and aircraft collector, Dr. Bird applied many of the principles used in avionics to his work with mechanical ventilation.


“What I learned in aviation… I applied that to the heart and lungs,” says Dr. Bird in “Fate, Chance & Circumstance,” his video biography.

The “Bird” and “Babybird”

A recipient of many awards and honors – including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama – Dr. Bird is most well known for creating the Bird Mark 7 Respirator in the late 1950s. Commonly referred to as the “Bird,” it is one of the first mass-produced, cost-efficient mechanical ventilators ever made.


In the early 1970s, Dr. Bird created a ventilator for infants and small children, nicknamed the “Babybird.” In approximately two years, this invention had reduced the infant mortality rate from roughly 70 percent to less than 10 percent for infants with respiratory issues. Among all of his achievements, Dr. Bird once said he was most proud of the “Babybird.”

Percussionaire® Corporation Summer Seminar Series

“I was most impressed with Dr. Bird’s stories about how he came up with ideas for ventilation based on principles he learned from aviation,” says Corey Elliott, RRT, RCP, and Director of Business Development for Independence Plus’ Respiratory Home Medical Equipment business, which provides respiratory equipment to medically-fragile, technology-dependent patients.


Completing a course called Cardiopulmonary Dynamics, our team learned about many new technologies, such as Intrapulmonary Percussive Ventilation (IPV®) for Mucus Clearance, the VDR4 Intensive Care Ventilator, and how the Phasitron patient interface works and is the key to all Percussionaire® devices.

To learn more about Dr. Bird, watch the “60 Minutes” special, which profiles his life and accomplishments.

Do you remember the “Bird” and “Babybird”? How has mechanical ventilation changed in healthcare since the early days?

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