This week, Librarian Louise Birch takes a look at an intriguing patent for Leeds Baby Week: an “Apparatus Facilitating the Birth of A Child By Centrifugal Force”.
Leeds Central Library is home to a Business and Intellectual Property Centre, part of a network of regional centres here to help out all you inventors, designers and business people. Whether it’s copyright, trademarks, designs or patents, we can support you with your business needs. Patents protect inventions, and over the years there have been many weird and wonderful creations registered, many with the aim of improving the lives of others.
This week in Leeds we celebrate Baby Week and with that in mind I want to bring to your attention a patent from 1965 for an Apparatus Facilitating the Birth of a Child by Centrifugal Force. Yes you read that correctly and whatever you are imagining right now is probably pretty accurate, that is if you are imagining a machine spinning a labouring woman around in circles until her child is flung from her body. But let’s go back a little further before we delve into the diagrams and build instructions.
The patent was filed by George B. Blonsky and Charlotte E. Blonsky, a married couple from the Bronx, New York. A mining engineer by trade it is said that George was inspired to design the machine after watching a heavily pregnant elephant turning in circles at the Bronx Zoo. The only other piece of information I have about the couple is that when they filed the patent in 1963 they didn’t have any children, a fact which may have contributed to their theories behind some aspects of the design, but back to their creation. Blonsky believed the following:
In the case of a woman who has a fully developed muscular system and has had ample physical exertion all through the pregnancy, as is common with all more primitive peoples, nature provides all the necessary equipment and power to have a normal and quick delivery. This is not the case, however, with more civilised women who often do not have the opportunity to develop the muscles needed in confinement.
As you can see from the patent illustrations the labouring woman would be strapped onto the stretcher to prevent her from being thrown from the machine by the centrifugal force. The first strap fixes to the stretcher at ear level running under the woman’s chin, the second; holds her across the torso just under the bust, the third; a cast aluminium girdle secures the pelvis in position, the fourth; thigh holders clamp across the top of each upper thigh and finally a pair of boot members are used to lock the feet into position.
Concerned with the safety of the medical staff operating the apparatus, the patent describes how: “For safety sake, the machine is enclosed in an annular fence capable of excluding all personnel from the reach of the revolving deck.” Blonsky also makes clear that it is the gynaecologist who decides when “the most opportune time for childbirth has arrived” and can instruct the machine operator to begin and to what level of speed the device should be increased to.
As the operator increases the speed of the machine the centrifugal force increases however should the force reach 8gs a safety mechanism kicks in “causing the governor to shut down the machine.” Meaning your emerging child should face no more than a level 7g force acceleration during birth. For reference 7.19gs is what the astronauts of Apollo 16 experienced on re-entry into the atmosphere.
But what of the child? What happens to them as they are flung from their mother’s body? Well don’t worry because Mr and Mrs Blonsky really have thought of everything, once the “dislodgement of the fetus” has been achieved the child is delivered into a net attached to the straps holding down the mothers thighs. The net encases cotton wadding which upon receiving the child presses down upon an upright switch signally that the birth is over causing the motor to stop and the machines rotations to cease. At this point the operator uses a hand brake, similar to those found on old steam trains to bring the machine to a complete stop.
The machine can also be adapted to raise at the head end allowing gravity to also play its part should the gynaecologist deem this necessary.
The first few lines of Blonsky’s patent application states the intention to “facilitate the birth of a child at less stress to the mother” however I can’t imagine how being alone and strapped to a bed while someone else decides when to start the rotations and also at what speed to increase them to as being at all stress reliving. Thankfully I can find no reference to this contraption ever being put into production, however as patents legally expire after 20 years this one is up for grabs to anyone who fancies entering the world of centrifugal midwifery.
Patent can be found online here:
Apollo 16 G force:
Background on Mr & Mrs Blonsky: