Forrest Bird

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USPTO trading card featuring Bird.

Forrest M. Bird (born June 9, 1921) is an American aviator, inventor and biomedical engineer. He is best known for creating some of the first reliable mass-produced mechanical ventilators for acute and chronic cardiopulmonary care.


Bird was born in Stoughton, Massachusetts. Bird became a pilot at an early age due to the encouragement of his father, a World War I pilot, and from meeting Orville Wright at an early age. He performed his first solo flight at age 14; by age 16, he was working to obtain multiple major pilot certifications. Bird enlisted with the United States Army Air Corps, and entered active duty in 1941 as a technical air training officer due to his advanced qualifications. This rank, combined with the onset of World War II, gave him the opportunity to pilot almost every aircraft in service, including early jet aircraft and helicopters.

The newest models of aircraft were capable of exceeding altitudes at which humans can breathe normally, introducing the risk of altitude sickness.

In 1967, Bird developed the Bird Innovator, a conversion of the Consolidated PBY Catalina amphibian aircraft. His company was Bird Oxygen Breathing Equipment Inc, later renamed Bird Corporation, the aircraft being based at Palm Springs until 1976.[1]

Bird receiving the Citizens Medal.

Bird currently resides in Sagle, Idaho, close to the U.S. / Canadian border which is where his home, production facilities, museum and ranch are located. Dr. Bird collects and restores old planes, old cars, and motorcycles.[2] July 7, 2007 marked the opening of the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center with Patty Wagstaff cutting the ribbon at the end of the runway while flying. Forrest and Pamela Bird are founders and owners with Bird's aircraft and inventions on display.[3] On December 10, 2008, Bird received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President George Bush. The United States honored him for his groundbreaking contributions and for his work to keep America at the forefront of discovery.[4] On October 7, 2009, President Barack Obama awarded Bird the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, a recognition of his "outstanding contributions to the promotion of technology for the improvement of the economic, environmental or social well-being of the United States."[5]

Mechanical ventilators[edit]

Bird Mark 8 ventilator

The first "Bird" units[edit]

Bird created a prototype ventilator unit which was tested on seriously ill patients with limited success. His first prototype consisted of strawberry shortcake tins and a doorknob. Most of these first units were sold to the Army, in the original format of tins and the doorknob. Further revision resulted in the 1955 release of the "Bird Universal Medical Respirator" (sold as the Bird Mark 7 Respirator and informally called the "Bird"), a small green box that became familiar to hospital patients soon after its introduction. The Bird Mark 8 added the capabilities of NEEP (Negative End Expiratory Pressure). This was frequently used to power a set of fluidic servos (sort of relays.) He subsequently made a ventilator for infants, nicknamed the "Babybird." This device was one of several devices that appeared on the market designed to effectvely ventilate small children and infants. These devices played a significant role in reducing the rate of breathing-related infant mortality from 70% to 10%. The Bird Mark 7 Respirator is still in use around the world. In addition he produced the Fluid Control Device. Bird is still working on medical devices today to help people around the world.

Subsequent developments[edit]

Bird won the Lifetime Scientific Achievement Award in 1985 and received another one in September 2005. He continues to contribute to the field of pulmonary science by participating in the development of the VDR, a ventilator that permits management of the most challenging patients including ARDS, Trauma and inhalation injury. In 1995, Bird was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame; he is still working with their research teams. He was named "Inventor of the Week" by MIT in February 2001.

History of Bird Corp.[edit]

  • 1965: First factory assembly line rolls out a medical respirator for home health, the Mark III.
  • 1971: Bird introduces first infant ventilator.
  • 1978: Bird sells his namesake company to 3M, which took it public.
  • 1984: 3M sells Bird Products to the management group of a competitor, Bird Medical Technologies Inc.
  • 1987: The Bird 6400ST is released, the first new-generation ventilator.
  • 1990: Bird Medical Technologies goes public, and is traded on NASDAQ under the ticker, BMTI.
  • 1992: Bird Medical, reporting $36.5 million in sales in 1991, lays off 21 of 211 workers, citing poor economic conditions and falling sales. Despite the downturn, construction of its new, 120,000-square-foot (11,000 m2) building at 1100 Bird Center Drive, its present site, continues.
  • 1995: Thermo Electron Corp., which acquired Bird in a $67 million buyout of Bird stock, moves a Riverside-based subsidiary into the Palm Springs location. That year, Dr. Bird is inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
  • 2002: Through acquisition and consolidation, the venture becomes a part of VIASYS Respiratory Care.
  • 2009: Cardinal Health Inc., a Fortune 20 company based in Dublin, Ohio, is spun from its parent company to the wholly owned subsidiary, CareFusion Corp. The year before, Cardinal Health relocated three sister companies to the Palm Springs operation: Bear Medical of Riverside, SensorMedics Corp. of Yorba Linda and EME Medical of Brighton, England.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Legg (2002), pp.32-34, 243-245
  2. ^ "Forrest Bird, The Birdman of Idaho". CBS News - 60 minutes. 2009-08-30. Retrieved 2009-09-01. |
  3. ^ "Memorable Opening of Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center". Airport Journals. August 2007. Retrieved 2009-09-01.  |
  4. ^ "The President Participates in a Ceremony for 2008 Recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal". The White House. 2008-12-10. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  5. ^ "President Honors Nation's Top Scientists and Innovators". National Science Foundation. 2009-09-18. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 


  • Legg, David (2002). Consolidated PBY Catalina: The Peacetime Record. UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84037-276-1

External links[edit]