George Poe

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George Poe, Jr.
Born (1846-05-08)May 8, 1846
Elkridge Landing, Maryland
Died February 3, 1914(1914-02-03) (aged 67)
Norfolk, Virginia
Parent(s) George Poe, Sr.
Elizabeth Ross Ellicott
Relatives Edgar Allan Poe, cousin
Patent for artificial respiration
Dr. J.P. Jackson (left), George Poe (center) and Dr. Francis Morgan (right), 1907

George Poe, Jr. (May 8, 1846 – February 3, 1914) was a pioneer of mechanical ventilation of asphyxiation victims.[1][2] He was the first person to manufacture nitrous oxide for commercial use in his Trenton, New Jersey company.[3][4][5]


He was the son of George Poe, Sr. (1808–?) and Elizabeth Ross Ellicott (1810–1881), who married on December 14, 1835.[6][7][8][9] Around 1885 he married Margaret Amy Wallace (1854–1932) and they had the following children: George Poe III; Mary Elizabeth Ellicott Poe (1874–1944) who married George Pender Hart (1862–1936); and Elizabeth Ellicott Poe (c1886–c1948).[9] He was a cousin of Edgar Allan Poe.[4]

Education and career[edit]

He attended the Virginia Military Institute, and after fighting in the American Civil War, Poe built the Poe Chemical Works in Trenton, New Jersey, USA, which included the first plant in America for mass-producing liquid nitrous oxide. He chose Trenton because of its gas works which created the raw materials for creating nitrous oxide.[4][10] By 1883 he was supplying about 5000 dentists with laughing gas.[11]

Using the resources of his factory, Poe experimented with oxygen cylinders and tubing and found that he could resuscitate rats and rabbits that he had suffocated. In 1889, he undertook a nationwide tour. He claimed that his apparatus could revive humans who had drowned or been poisoned by gas lamps, and should be available in all hotels and lodging houses to deal with gas poisoning.[11]


Illness curtailed his activities. By 1900, he was nearly blind and partly paralyzed, and his doctors advised him to relocate to the country and retire. He moved to the Norfolk, Virginia farm of a friend, Abram Cline Ostrander.[12][13] He found that he could continue his research by enlisting the help of Arthur Frederick Ostrander, the article states: "Not the least interesting feature of Prof. Poe's device is the fact that a mere 10-year-old lad, Arthur Ostrander, acted as eyes and hands for the almost sightless and semi-paralyzed scientist in the construction of the device", the young son of his friend.[14][15][16] Arthur Ostrander acted as Poe's eyes and hands, allowing him to further refine his device. In 1907 he began another tour, accompanied by Arthur Ostrander, and two Norfolk physicians, Dr. Francis Morgan and Dr. J. P. Jackson.[13] He gained fresh publicity in 1909 when a man called Moses Goodman was revived using his apparatus. Again, his health prevented him from doing much, and other inventors developed their own artificial respirators.


He died on February 3, 1914, in Norfolk, Virginia. An obituary said that he had been nominated for a Nobel Prize.[4][11] He was buried in Confederate Square, a Civil War memorial situated within Magnolia Cemetery, in Norfolk, Virginia.[17][18]



  1. ^ "Dr. Poe and His Curious Breathing Machine". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2008-07-06. By asphyxiating rabbits, Poe was able to test his device — a pair of brass piston cylinders that could be operated with a handle. Before long, he was reviving rabbits. He moved on to larger and larger animals. In 1907 and '08, he traveled from city to city, demonstrating his invention for audiences of impressed physicians. 
  2. ^ "An Artificial Respirator", Scientific American, June 22, 1907, page 515.
  3. ^ "Smother Small Dog To See it Revived. Successful Demonstration of an Artificial Respiration Machine Cheered in Brooklyn. Women in the Audience, But Most of Those Present Were Physicians. The Dog, Gathered in from the Street, Wagged Its Tail.". New York Times. May 29, 1908. An audience, composed of about thirty men and three or four women, most of the men being physicians, attended a demonstration of Prof. George Poe's machine for producing artificial respiration in the library of the Kings County Medical Society, at 1,313 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, last night, under the auspices of the First Legion of the Red Cross Society. 
  4. ^ a b c d "George Poe is Dead". Washington Post. February 3, 1914. Retrieved 2007-12-29. Cousin of Famous Poet and Noted as a Scientist. Inventor of the Respirator. Also First to Liquefy Nitrous Oxide. Cadet at Virginia Military Institute at Time of Battle of Newmarket. Mentioned for the Nobel Prize for Scientific Attainment in Chemistry. Prof. George Poe, a cousin of the poet Edgar Allan Poe, a noted scientist and inventor, who had been mentioned for the Nobel prize for scientific attainment, a former resident of Washington, died in Norfolk, Virginia, yesterday of general paralysis. Prof. Poe was in his sixty-eighth year. 
  5. ^ "George Poe". New York Times. February 4, 1914. George Poe, scientist and inventor and cousin of Edgar Allan Poe, died in Norfolk, Virginia, yesterday. He was 68 years old and had held chairs in chemistry, especially as relating to gases. 
  6. ^ Maryland Marriage Index, 1655-1850
  7. ^ He had the following siblings: Harriet Poe (1839–?); Fanny Poe (1841–?); Elizabeth Poe (1844–?); Lucretia Poe (1850–?); and Mary Poe (1853–?).
  8. ^ George Poe and family in the 1860 US Census for Baltimore, Maryland
  9. ^ a b "George Poe, Jr.". Rootsweb. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  10. ^ "Poe's Chemical Works. Outgrowth of Many Experiments.". Trenton Times. August 17, 1883. 
  11. ^ a b c "Poe's cure for death." (PDF). New Scientist. 13 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-26. One spring evening in 1908 three doctors stood before an expectant audience in the library of the Medical Society of the County of Kings in Brooklyn, New York. Before they began their demonstration, they needed one last thing. "Fetch a stray dog," they cried, tossing a quarter to an urchin outside. The boy returned with a yelping yellow mutt, which the doctors gently petted until it wagged its tail. Then they hog-tied and smothered it. The dog struggled for a few agonized minutes before giving a low moan and going limp. It was a scene worthy of Poe - not the great master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe, but his cousin George. For he had promised the audience a feat befitting his family name: this dog would be brought back from the dead. [dead link]
  12. ^ Abram Cline Ostrander was born on September 12, 1843 and died on October 2, 1914. Source: Ostrander: A Genealogical Record, 1660-1995, by Emmett and Vinton Ostrander, page 448; and death certificate of Abram Cline Ostrander from October 2, 1914.
  13. ^ a b "Rabbit Killed Seven Times Brought Back to Life Each Time With Wonderful Machine". Washington Times. January 27, 1907. Not the least interesting feature of Prof. Poe's device is the fact that a mere 10 year old lad, Arthur Ostrander, acted as eyes and hands for the almost sightless and semi-paralyzed scientist in the construction of the device 
  14. ^ Arthur Frederick Ostrander and family in the 1900 US Census
  15. ^ "Pumps in New Life". The Frederick News-Post. April 25, 1907. With the assistance of young Ostrander, he built a working model in line with the construction of the heart. ... The boy Arthur, of whom the Professor was fond, assisted in assembling the model, and in doing what the Professor's [palsied] hands and dim eyes could no longer do. 
  16. ^ Ostrander: A Genealogical Record, 1660-1995, by Emmett and Vinton Ostrander, page 448
  17. ^ "Professor George Poe Passed Away Yesterday". Ledger-Dispatch. February 3, 1914. 
  18. ^ Cemetery Records of Riverside-Magnolia Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia

External links[edit]