Health and Medicine

First Aid and Poisons

Who discovered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as a method to resuscitate an individual whose heart had stopped?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a first-aid technique that combines mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and rhythmic compression of the chest to a person whose heart has stopped. The Scottish surgeon William Tossach (c. 1700-after 1771) first performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in 1732. The technique was not further developed (or widely used) for many centuries until Dr. Edward Schafer (1850–1935) developed a method of chest pressure to stimulate respiration. In 1910 the American Red Cross adopted and began to teach Schafer’s method. A team of specialists at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Orthello R. Langworthy (1897–1996), R.D. Hooker, and William B. Kouwenhoven (1886–1975), attempted to improve on the technique. Kouwenhoven realized that chest compression could maintain blood flow in a person whose heart had stopped. In 1958 Kouwenhoven’s method of chest compression was used on a two-year-old child whose heart had stopped. The American Red Cross endorsed the technique in 1963.


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