Tuesday, August 13, 2013

1778: John Mudge invents the inhaler

While he wasn't the first to use the concept of inhaler, not even the first in his own era (Dr. Philip Stern says he invented his inhaler in 1768),  Dr. John Mudge is often given credit for both the invention of the inhaler and the term "inhaler."

A wood carving of Mudge's inhaler from Dr. Cohen's 1876 book
Dr. Stern invented an inhaler, which basically used the power of steam that was inhaled through a pipe.  Yet, for whatever reason,  Dr. Stern wasn't accepted by the medical community.  So it's Dr. John Mudge who gets all the credit.  It's Dr. Mudge who's mentioned in most medical books, and medical history books, and given credit as the inventor of the inhaler.

Mudge invented his inhaler and advertised it in his book, "A Radical and Expeditious Cure
for a Recent Catarrhous Cough," published in 1778.  The year 1778 is also supposedly the year he patented his inhaler, for which reason it's often referred to it as "Mudge: patent," although no record of a patent was ever reported. (1, page 257)

Mudge's inhaler was mentioned in various magazines and books directed to the medical profession during the 19th century, including the book"Inhalation in the treatment of disease: it's therapeutics and practice" by Dr. Jacob Solis Cohen. 

Cohen provides for us the above wood carving, plus a nice description of the inhaler. He describes it as a simple pewter jug with a hollow handle with holes in it (f) to allow for the free flow of air so steam can be inhaled.  It also had a lid with two perforations.  Over one (a) a grid with a one way ball-valve made of cork can be slid over to allow air to exit but not enter.  Into the other (c) is inserted a long, flexible tube (d) that acts as a mouthpiece (e). The patient simply places his lips around the mouthpiece, inhaling the steam.

The patient can inhale simple steam, or medicated steam as desired or prescribed by a physician.  Thanks to the free flow of air from holes in the handle, and the egress of air through the hole with the grid, it was the first inhaler with a mouthpiece to allow the patient to inhale and exhale through the inhaler. 

How to use it is best described by Cohen:
 "The mug being filled to two-thirds of its capacity, the water of course rises in the handle to the same level; and, therefore, when the patient inspires through the flexible tube, the air rushes through the handle of the mug into the water, and out through the inhaling-tube. When the patient expires through the tube, the air of expiration passes into the free space beneath the cover, and is expelled out of the second perforation in the cover, lifting the cork-valve in its egress." (2, page 20)
It was a great invention for its time, and was marketed into the 20th century. 

References:
  1. Bennion, Elizabeth, "Antique Medical Instruments," 1979, 1980, California, University of California Press
  2. Cohen, Jacob Solis, "Inhalation in the treatment of disease: it's therapeutics and practice," 1876, Philadelphia, Lindsay and Blakiston
Further rading:
  1. Sanders, Mark, "Mudge Inhaler," Inhalatorium.com,  http://www.inhalatorium.com/page57.html, you can also review a slide show presentation on "Pioneers of Inhalation," by Mark Sanders.  Sanders has a collection of antique inhalers and nebulizers he has graciously shared with us on his website.  Mr. Sanders also provided permission to use the photo attached to this post.  
  2. Mudge, John, "A radical and expeditious cure for a recent catarrhous cough: preceded by some observations on respiration with occasional and practical remarks on some other diseases of the lungs," 2nd edition, 1779 (original edition was in 1778), London, printed by E. Allen, Fleet Street

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