In delivering the 43rd Rovenstine Lecture, “Assessing the Past and Shaping the Future of Anesthesiology,” which was reprinted in the May 2005 issue of Anesthesiology, Jerome H. Modell, M.D., D.Sc. (Hon) (Professor Emeritus of Anesthesiology, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida), pays tribute to his many American mentors, friends, and colleagues. Certainly, the credits could be well merited, but in the case of Dr. Thorkild Andersen, they are misplaced. Dr. Modell is correct when he states that “Critical care medicine also is primarily an outgrowth of anesthesiology” but incorrect when he states that it was “Dr. Thorkild Andersen and his colleagues in Copenhagen, Denmark, [who] demonstrated that polio victims could be kept alive if they were intubated and hand ventilated by an anesthesiologist at the bedside.” The honor for demonstrating that polio victims were succumbing considerably more frequently from respiratory insufficiency than from overwhelming virus encephalitis belongs solely to another Danish anesthesiologist: Dr. Bjørn Ibsen.2,,3 During the 1952 poliomyelitis epidemic in Denmark, it was he who showed that polio victims, with paralysis of the respiratory or bulbar muscles, could often be kept alive if they were treated as Dr. Modell describes in his Rovenstine lecture. Ibsen's account of events is available, in his own words.

In the short term, the contribution of Bjørn Ibsen was of fundamental importance for the victims of polio. But it was the well-deserved credit he gained from his achievements in the great struggle of the polio epidemic that made it possible for Ibsen to open the first multidisciplinary intensive care unit in the world at the Kommune Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, on December 21, 1953.

*Holstebro Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Modell JH: Assessing the past and shaping the future of anesthesiology: The 43rd Rovenstine Lecture. Anesthesiology 2005; 102:1050–7
Wackers GL: Modern anaesthesiological principles for bulbar polio: Manual IPPV in the 1952 polio-epidemic in Copenhagen. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 1994; 38:420–31
Trubuhovich RV: 26th August 1952 at Copenhagen: “Bjørn Ibsen's Day”; a significant event for anaesthesia. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 2004; 48:272–7
Ibsen B: From anaesthesia to anaesthesiology: Personal experiences in Copenhagen during the past 25 years. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand Suppl 1975; 61:21–8
Berthelsen PG, Cronqvist M: The first intensive care unit in the world: Copenhagen 1953. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 2003; 47:1190–5