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Baby Incubators at the Pan-American Exposition

Scientific American 85:68, August 3, 1901

Statistics show that only about 25 per cent of the infants prematurely or weakly born live ordinarily, but by means of the baby incubator of to-day the lives of about 85 per cent are saved. The baby incubator exhibited at the Pan-American Exposition is in a special building on the Mall near one of the entrance gates, and while it is in the nature of a concession, or in other words an exhibit, it has proved to be of great interest to visitors. In a large room, well-lighted, are a dozen incubators, each of which consists of a glass case in a metal frame, and supported on metal legs. In each is a small woven-wire cot carefully padded. Fresh air is admitted by a large pipe from outside the building. The air passes first through an antiseptic fluid which destroys any germs that may be lurking in it. It also passes through cotton, which filters out any physical impurities. The air is then warmed and is finally introduced into the chamber where the baby lies. A pan of warm water keeps the atmosphere humid and the amount of moisture is registered by a small hygrometer at one side of the incubator. The air enters at the bottom of the case, strikes a shield below the cot and is deflected downward until it meets the warm current of air heated by a Bunsen burner placed outside the case. The temperature is automatically regulated by a thermostat. At the side of each case is a small boiler which holds about two gallons of water. Through the proper introduction of cold water the circulation is controlled in the pipes that heat the incubator in the same manner in which it is done in a house heated by cold water. A centigrade thermometer in front of each incubator gives the actual temperature all the time. Each infant is swathed, German-fashion, and they can be clearly seen through the glass doors and sides of the various incubators. The infants are sent by the physicians of Buffalo and are given over to the care of the institution. They are weighed, clothed, and placed in the incubator. They are usually under five pounds in weight on admission. The babies are taken out of the incubators every two hours to be fed by the nurses who live in the building.

At the rear of the incubator room is a model nursery, which is shown in one of our engravings. A miniature elevator takes the infants to the upstairs quarters to be fed. Most of the babies lie with their eyes closed, and practically the only sign of life is the occasional flutter of one of the tiny hands. In accordance with the European custom the boys are distinguished by blue ribbons and the girls by pink. The infants at the exposition are not from institutions, but are from private families, so that the names of the little patients are carefully kept from the public. Above each incubator is a card on which is given the child's initials, the date of its birth, its admission to the incubator, the circumstances that make artificial care advisable, its weight and any other detail of significance. The incubator was invented about sixty years ago, but it never came into general use until 1878, when incubators were installed at the Paris Maternity Hospital. Both Berlin and London have permanent institutions similarly equipped and in successful operation.

Sci Am Image 1

Model nursery and elevator for infants.

Sci Am Image 2

Weighing an infant.

Sci Am Image 3

Baby incubators at the Pan-American Exposition.


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