History of mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. Part 2: the 18th century

Crit Care Resusc. 2006 Jun;8(2):157-71.


In Britain, the great boost to performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for the "suddenly apparently dead" came from William Tossach's 1744 documentation of his own successful case, and then from promotion by John Fothergill and other enthusiasts. Some civic authorities on the Continent were exhorting citizens to employ it from as early as the mid-18th century. The first humane society was founded in Amsterdam in 1767 and initially promoted expired air ventilation (EAV) by the mouth-to-mouth method. Other humane societies were soon established throughout Europe, especially in maritime cities with frequent drownings. The founding of London's humane society in 1774, initially known as "The Institute," was followed by earnest efforts to promote mouth-to-mouth EAV in England, and soon after in Scotland, but not until the 1780s in North America. Disenchantment with the mouth-to-mouth method as less desirable (for various reasons) led to decline in its general use. In 1782, what later became The Royal Humane Society in London changed its expressed preference for artificial ventilation by mouth-to-mouth to manual artificial ventilation using inflating bellows, although mouth-to-mouth was a method of resuscitation which could be attempted by any rescuer. The need to apply artificial ventilation immediately was not really recognised before John Hunter's recommendation to London's Humane Society in 1776. Charles Kite spelt out clearly the principles of resuscitation in 1787-8, though he gave some priority to warming. It seems that only in the latter part of the 18th century was the importance of airway obstruction recognised, largely due to Edmund Goodwyn.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / history*
  • History, 18th Century
  • Humans
  • Midwifery / history
  • United Kingdom