In the mid-1950s, a whimsical Danish anaesthetist fashioned the first self-inflating Air-Mask Bag Unit (Ambu, left) around a re-expanding frame of bicycle-wheel spokes. The multitalented Henning Ruben (1914 to 2004) had originally funded his dental school education by performing the tango in dance halls throughout Denmark (right). A nationally ranked fencer, he had also delighted audiences with his swordsmanship. His piercing prowess even extended to mind-reading; he belonged to Magisk Circle, an elite corps of illusionists. When he started medical school, the Nazi occupation of Denmark forced Ruben, an Orthodox Jew, to vanish to Sweden as a dentist-magician. When he finally became an anaesthetist, he applied his joie de vivre to creating revitalizing contraptions. In 1952, the Danish polio epidemic prompted anaesthetist Bjørn Ibsen, “Father of Intensive Care,” to popularize the wonders of positive-pressure ventilation. That same calamity, along with a truck-driver strike that curtailed oxygen delivery to Danish hospitals, paved the way for Ruben’s two greatest inventions: his namesake nonrebreathing valve, which obviated the need for portable soda lime; and his glorious Ambu bag, which could self-inflate with or without a gas supply. (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, Schaumburg, Illinois.)

In the mid-1950s, a whimsical Danish anaesthetist fashioned the first self-inflating Air-Mask Bag Unit (Ambu, left) around a re-expanding frame of bicycle-wheel spokes. The multitalented Henning Ruben (1914 to 2004) had originally funded his dental school education by performing the tango in dance halls throughout Denmark (right). A nationally ranked fencer, he had also delighted audiences with his swordsmanship. His piercing prowess even extended to mind-reading; he belonged to Magisk Circle, an elite corps of illusionists. When he started medical school, the Nazi occupation of Denmark forced Ruben, an Orthodox Jew, to vanish to Sweden as a dentist-magician. When he finally became an anaesthetist, he applied his joie de vivre to creating revitalizing contraptions. In 1952, the Danish polio epidemic prompted anaesthetist Bjørn Ibsen, “Father of Intensive Care,” to popularize the wonders of positive-pressure ventilation. That same calamity, along with a truck-driver strike that curtailed oxygen delivery to Danish hospitals, paved the way for Ruben’s two greatest inventions: his namesake nonrebreathing valve, which obviated the need for portable soda lime; and his glorious Ambu bag, which could self-inflate with or without a gas supply. (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, Schaumburg, Illinois.)

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Jane S. Moon, M.D., University of California, Los Angeles, California, and Melissa L. Coleman, M.D., Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania.