Philip Drinker

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Philip Drinker
BornDecember 12, 1894
DiedOctober 19, 1972(1972-10-19) (aged 77)
Engineering career
ProjectsIron lung

Philip Drinker (December 12, 1894 – October 19, 1972) was an American industrial hygienist. With Louis Agassiz Shaw, he invented the first widely used iron lung in 1928.[1][2]

Family and early life[edit]

Drinker's father was railroad man and Lehigh University president Henry Sturgis Drinker;[1] his siblings included lawyer and musicologist Henry Sandwith Drinker, Jr., pathologist Cecil Kent Drinker,[2] businessman James Drinker, and biographer Catherine Drinker Bowen.[1] After graduating from St. George's and Princeton in 1915,[1] Philip Drinker trained as a chemical engineer at Lehigh for two years.[1]

Drinker was hired to teach industrial illumination and ventilation at Harvard Medical School[1] and soon joined his brother Cecil and colleagues Alice Hamilton and David L. Edsall on the faculty of the nascent Harvard School of Public Health[2] in 1921[2] or 1923.[1] He studied, taught, and wrote textbooks and scholarly works on a variety of topics in industrial hygiene;[2] the iron lung itself was originally designed in response to an industrial hygiene problem—coal gas poisoning[2]—though it would become best known as a life-preserving treatment for polio. Charles Momsen credited Drinker "and his friends" for their assistance with gas-mixture experiments that ultimately made possible the rescue of the survivors of the USS Squalus in 1939.[3] During World War II, Drinker directed the industrial hygiene program for the United States Maritime Commission.[1] After the war, he advised the Atomic Energy Commission.[1]

Drinker served as editor-in-chief of The Journal of Industrial Hygiene for over thirty years[1] and, in 1942, as president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, to which he had belonged since its inception.[2]

He retired from Harvard in 1960[2] or 1961.[1] Drinker received the Donald E. Cummings Award from the American Industrial Hygiene Association in 1950.[4] He was later inducted into the US National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2007.

A Drinker iron lung

He and his wife Susan[5] had a son, bioengineer Philip A. Drinker,[6] and 2 daughters, Susan Drinker Moran (1926-2010), author, and Eliza Scudder, educator.


  • Shaw, LA; Drinker, P (1929). "An Apparatus for the Prolonged Administration of Artificial Respiration: I. A Design for Adults and Children". J Clin Invest. 7 (2): 229–47. doi:10.1172/JCI100226. PMC 434785. PMID 16693859.
  • Shaw, LA; Drinker, P (1929). "An Apparatus for the Prolonged Administration of Artificial Respiration: II. A Design for Small Children and Infants with an Appliance for the Administration of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide". J Clin Invest. 8 (1): 33–46. doi:10.1172/JCI100253. PMC 424606. PMID 16693884.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science (2011). "Philip Drinker '17". Distinguished Alumni: Great Talents & Bright Minds. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Lehigh University. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Sherwood, RJ (1973). "Obituaries: Philip Drinker 1894–1972". The Annals of Occupational Hygiene. 16 (1): 93–4. doi:10.1093/annhyg/16.1.93.
  3. ^ Momsen, Charles B. "Rescue and Salvage of U.S.S. Squalus." Lecture delivered to the Harvard Engineering Society on October 6, 1939. Text available online. Accessed March 17, 2007.
  4. ^ "Donald E. Cummings Memorial Award". January 28, 2016. Archived from the original on January 28, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  5. ^ "Philip Drinker." American Industrial Hygiene Association journal. May 1973: 34(5), 179-181. Available online by subscription.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Sallans, Andrew. "iron lung." online exhibit. Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine University of Virginia, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. 2005. Accessed March 18, 2007.