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A Brief Summary of CPR Evolution

The origin and evolution of resuscitation concepts

Humanity’s desire to defeat death goes back to ancient times, with different resuscitation attempts from Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese1. But the origins of modern emergency resuscitation date back to the 18th century.

Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for drowning victims pulled from the River Seine was first recommended by the Paris Academy of Sciences in 17402. And in 1767, a group of concerned citizens in Amsterdam formed the Society for Recovery of Drowned Persons and issued the first set of recommendations for reversing death3.

Another two centuries of increasing knowledge about human physiology and equipment development followed until we reached the high-level CPR techniques that we know today.

“Anyone, anywhere, can initiate cardiac resuscitation procedures. All that is needed are two hands” – Willian B. Kouwenhoven, 1960, also known as the “Father of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.”

In 1903, Dr. George Crile reported the first successful use of external chest compression to revive a patient4. And in 1960, a group of resuscitation pioneers combined mouth-to-mouth breathing with chest compressions to create the lifesaving action we now call CPR! Among them was the inventor of the cardiac defibrillator, an engineer named William Bennet Kouwenhoven, who would later become known as the “Father of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.”5

In the ’60s, the American Heart Association (AHA) formally endorsed CPR, and the first guidelines were published by the National Academy of Sciences. In 1983, the AHA convened a national conference to develop CPR guidelines also for children and infants. And the decade of the 1990s saw the start of programs to put automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public places6.

Since then, techniques have been continually studied, and the guidelines are constantly reviewed and updated to ensure better outcomes.

CPR for everyone

  • 1972: The world’s first mass CPR training program begins in Seattle, certifying more than 100.000 people in the first two years6.

  • 1981: 911 operators start giving CPR instructions over the phone6.

  • 2005: The American Heart Association develops the program CPR Anytime, allowing anyone to learn CPR in 20 minutes6.

As more people are trained, more lives are saved!

Emergencies don’t come with a notice, unfortunately.

Hundreds of thousands of cardiac arrests happen outside of a hospital each year7: they can occur in restaurants, schools, gyms, or even at your home. And a quick response can save a life!

Once a person has a cardiac arrest, the clock starts ticking. And fast! Brain damage begins after only 4 minutes without oxygen, and the survival chance drops 10% every minute that CPR is delayed8.

Delivering immediate CPR until medical help arrives can double or even triple the victim’s chances of survival from cardiac arrest. Bystanders who have training are 3.4 times more likely to perform CPR than untrained people9. As more people are trained, more lives are saved!

Teach and learn CPR with our manikins

Like our 18th-century Amsterdam predecessors, the new Dutch generations continue to look after the well-being of the world population. That’s why we at MEDICAL-X develop a wide range of patient simulators for cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.

We offer adult and baby simulators – preemie, newborn, and infant sizes – in several degrees of fidelity, enabling effective and safe training for healthcare professionals and ordinary citizens.

Practice your CPR skills with ADAM-X and NENASim and become a lifesaver too!


(1) Wright, AJ. A Brief History of Resuscitation and Tracheostomy. Anesthesiology News. July 2021.
(2) Adrian A. Matioc; An Anesthesiologist’s Perspective on the History of Basic Airway Management: The “Preanesthetic” Era—1700 to 1846. Anesthesiology 2016; 124:301–31. doi:
(3) Bierens JJLM. The Amsterdam-based Maatschappij tot Redding van Drenkelingen 1767-2017: Guiding drowning resuscitation during 250 years. Resuscitation Journal. November 2017,120:A1-A4. doi:
(4) Hurt R. Modern cardiopulmonary resuscitation–not so new after all. J R Soc Med. 2005;98(7):327-331. doi:10.1258/jrsm.98.7.327
(5) Beaudouin D. W.B.Kouwenhoven: Reviving the Body Electric. Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering Magazine. Fall 2002.
(6) History of the American Heart Association. American Heart Association website.
(7) Roger VL. Go AS, Loyd-Jones DM, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2011 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. February 1, 2011 2011;123(4):e18-e209.
(8) Larsen MP, Eisenberg MS, Cummins RO, Hallstrom AP. Predicting survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: a graphic model. Ann Emerg Med. 1993;22(11):1652-1658. doi:10.1016/s0196-0644(05)81302-2
(9) Tanigawa K, Iwami T, Nishiyama C, Nonogi H, Kawamura T. Are trained individuals more likely to perform bystander CPR? An observational study. Resuscitation. 2011;82(5):523-528. doi:10.1016/j.resuscitation.2011.01.027

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