Saturday, September 3, 2016

1862: The Bergson Apparatus and Inhaler

Figure 1
In 1858 Dr. M. Sales Giron invented the first nebulizer to produce a fine spray by blasting a jet of water onto a hard surface, and in 1859 Dr. Mathieu invented the first nebulizer utilizing the bernoulli principle. In the following years various nebulizers were introduced to the market, all improving, in one way or another, either the Sales-Giron or Mathieu models. Yet this all changed in 1862 due to an invention by Dr. Bergson called Bergson Tubes.(3, page 463)

The concept that Bergson used was not new to the world. Similar "tubes" were used in fire trucks to draw water out of the truck's reservoir, through the hose, and spray water onto the fire. Similar tubes were also used for various other industries to spray solutions, such as for the perfume and disinfectant industry. (2, page 196-197)

So the recommendation was made by Dr. Nathanson to Dr. Bergson, who was from Germany, that he try to implement this idea to producing a nebulizer. Thankfully, Dr. Mathieu had already started on such a project. (2, page 196-197)

Dr. Scutter said he used Dr. Sales-Giron's Nebulizer "in my practice with excellent results," yet noted that a lot of cranking was required by the operator to generate only a small amount of mist. (1, page 31)

So perhaps all the work required to get only a little mist was the reason why Dr. Bergson decided to concentrate his efforts on improving the Mathieu nebulizer.

In 1862 Bergson introduced to the market what he referred to as the "Hydrokomion" or "Water Dust Apparatus." It was "an important modification of Mathieu's idea," (3, page 463) and would result in the Bernoulli Principle being mist producing concept of most nebulizers from that point on.

The Bergson Tubes resulted in a major improvement in the Mathieu design. Scudder described them this way: (2, page x)
"The apparatus, as constructed by Bergson, consists of two tubes at right angles, placed with their extremities together, and so joined that the extremity of the perpendicular tube should stand in front of the axis of the horizontal tube, as seen in the accompanying diagram. (see figure 1)
"If two tubes are thus arranged, and the vertical tube placed in a vessel containing a liquid, and then a current of air be blown from the mouth through the horizontal tube, the transverse current will carry over with it, as it were, the top of the column of air in the vertical tube, which, of course, will force up a current of the liquid to occupy the space of the air; and this continuing, the liquid will at length reach the top, and be blown by the transverse current into a coarser or finer spray. The fineness of the spray, and, consequently, its facility of ingress into the respiratory tract, will depend upon the minuteness of the extremities of the tubes, principally upon that of the tube dipping into the liquid. If the fluid is to be nebulized by the breath alone, the opening of the horizontal tube must not be too small, otherwise force enough cannot be produced. If the current is produced by means of a bellows, as the Davison's injecting syringe, the opening of the horizontal tube can be smaller.
"For the production of a continuous stream, an air reservoir must be attached to the syringe, and, for this purpose, Dr. Bergson adopted the arrangement of a rubber bellows worked with the foot, connected to the horizontal tube by rubber tubing, in the continuity of which is placed a globular elastic ball as an air reservoir. (Fig. 6.)

The Bergson nebulizer was therefore designed as such (refer to figure 3):
"a, reservoir for fluid; b,.waiter ; c, vertical tube ; d, horizontal tube ;  f, flexible tubing ; g, air reservoir ; h, rubber bellows to be compressed by the foot; i, joint connecting the Bergson tubes; k, nebula or spray; I, rim or cap of reservoir to which the nebulizing tubes are attached.   
The nebulizer worked pretty much as the description above describes, except the flow used to generate the mist was created by depressing the foot bellows.  When the bellow (h) is pressed, air is forced through the tube (f) "the air in the middle ball (g) is compressed and is forcibly blown through the horizontal tube (d).  When the air flows over the opening of the other tube," the negative pressure draws in the medication in the reservoir (a).  A mist is then created.  (3, page 463-4)

This product was a nice improvement, although it still took a lot of work to produce a mist.  Plus the tubes were made of glass, the product was clumsy, and it was costly and fragile. There was still room for improvement.

  1. Scudder, John M, "On the use of medicated inhalations, in the treatment of diseases of the respiratory organs," 2nd edition, 1867, Cincinnati, Moorz, Wilstach & Baldwin
  2. Cohen, Jacob Solis, "Inhalation in the treatment of disease: it's therapeutics and practice," 1876, Philadelphia, Lindsay and Blakiston
  3. Beatson, George, "Practical Papers on the Materials of the Antiseptic Method of Treatment," Vol. III, "On Spray Producers," Coats, Joseph, editor, "History of the Origin and Progress of Spray Producers  ", Glasgow Medical Journal, edited for the West of Scotland Medical Association, July to December 1880, Vol. XIV, Alex and Macdougall, pages 461-484
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