The birth of intensive care medicine was a process that took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, during and after the poliomyelitis epidemic in 1952/1953. The events that led to the creation of the first intensive care unit in the world in December 1953 are well described. It is generally agreed upon that the start of the process was the fact that an anaesthesiologist (Björn Ibsen) was brought out of the operating theatre and asked to use his skills on a 12-year-old girl suffering from polio. The medical record of the girl contains a minute-by-minute description of the historical event. A translation of this part of the record is published as an Online Resource to the article. The role played by the epidemiologist Mogens Björneboe is further analysed. He was the catalyst of the process, being the one with the idea that the skills of an anaesthesiologist could be used for other purposes than surgery. When first Ibsen realised what could be done with his skills, he proved to be one of the most progressive and inventive doctors seen in modern medicine. An interview with Prof. Ibsen in 2006 is published as an Online Resource to the article.