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History of Oxygen Concentrators

Have you ever wondered how today’s oxygen concentrators came to be? While the use of oxygen for medical purposes has been around since the 1800s, the use of modern day oxygen concentrator technology is fairly new. You might be surprised by the progression from early oxygen tanks that physically stored oxygen to modern day oxygen concentrators that pull oxygen from the surrounding air, which is then delivered to patients. In fact, the history of oxygen therapy might have started earlier than you would guess. Learn more about the history of oxygen therapy and the various oxygen therapy devices that have existed since the 1800s in the “History of Oxygen Concentrators” infographic below.

History of oxygen concentrators infographic

While the history of oxygen therapy dates back to 1885, when Dr. George Holzapple first used oxygen to treat pneumonia, the history of oxygen—or the discovery of it, to be more precise—is a bit more complex. The discovery of oxygen dates back to 1772, when Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered its existence. Unfortunately for him, an English chemist named Joseph Priestly also discovered oxygen on his own, but published his findings three years before Scheele. Because of the complex nature of the discovery and publication, both scientists are often credited. When learning about the discovery of oxygen, the origin of the name is interesting as well. The word “oxygen” is derived from the Greek words “oxy”, meaning acid, and “genes”, meaning forming. The gas was named “oxy-gène” by Antoine Lavoisier, who also claimed to have discovered it, and thus began the history of oxygen.

Though patients were able to inhale oxygen therapeutically as early as the mid 1800s with a device that stored oxygen for intermittent use, it was not delivered effectively until the early 1900s, when a nasal catheter and oxygen mask were first introduced. Then, in the 1950s, oxygen therapy was first made portable with small, high-pressure oxygen cylinders, a version of which was used regularly well into the 1970s and is sometimes still in use today.

The history of oxygen concentrators begins in the late 1970s, when oxygen concentrators were first invented for home use, though they were quite large. As it became clear that patients wanted more mobility and freedom than the large home oxygen concentrators and oxygen tanks afforded, the portable oxygen concentrator was born. Designed to travel and be used at home or away, the first portable oxygen concentrators were cleared for patient use by the FDA and FAA in the early 2000s. Inogen created those first portable oxygen concentrators, and in the process, established the beginnings of the history of portable oxygen concentrators, too.

The history of oxygen therapy might go back further than you thought, but the history of oxygen concentrators is just beginning. Inogen is proud to be an innovator in this field, and is inspired by our founding vision to continue making life and breathing better for people who require supplemental oxygen.

To learn more about how oxygen concentrators work, please go here: How Does an Oxygen Concentrator Work?

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