Collins Respirometer

WLMD ID: aknp

In 1928, Warren E. Collins, Inc., manufactured the first modern iron lung machine. Collins is better known as the maker of respiratory diagnosis instruments. This 9 Liter Respirometer was made from the 1930s through the 1960s. It recorded numerous lung and heart functions of patients, either at rest or in motion. These included tidal volume (the amount of air exchanged with each breath),maximum breathing capacity (the amount of air exchanged by breathing rapidly and deeply), oxygen deficit (an indication of low blood oxygen, measured today by pulse oximeters), and vital capacity (the amount of air a person can exhale after taking his deepest breath). The apparatus contained the carbon dioxide absorbent, Baralyme, allowing the patient to rebreathe his own air. The results of all these tests were recorded by ink tracings on the revolving paper drum.

Catalog Record: Collins Respirometer Collins Respirometer

Access Key: aknp

Accession No.: 2000-07-31-2 N

Title: Respirometer / Warren E. Collins Incorporated.

Corporate Author: Warren E. Collins Incorporated.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Collins Respirometer.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Collins 9-liter respirometer.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Collins 9 liter respirometer.

Publisher: Boston, Massachusetts : Warren E. Collins Incorporated, [1950-1965].

Physical Description: 1 respirometer ; metals (including chrome), plastics, paper, enamel : 78 x 50.5 x 28 cm.

Subject: Respiratory Function Tests.
Subject: Lung Volume Measurements – instrumentation.
Subject: Spirometry – instrumentation.

Web Link:

Note Type: General
Notes: The early year in the date range for the possible year of manufacture is generously based on the dates of publications in which the 9 liter Collins Respirometer was mentioned. The earliest date found was 1955, but earlier years have not been ruled out. The later year in the date range is based on the year that the company moved its manufacturing facility from Boston to Braintree, Massachusetts. The respirometer described here has a manufacturer marking with the address for Boston. A slide presentation of unknown date by Dott. Andrea Innocenti of U.F. Medicina del Lavoro includes an image of a Collins Respirometer that might be a 9 liter model. Dr. Innocenti dated the image as 1953. The date range could change if documentation indicates it should be corrected.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Clinical Spirometry: Instructions for Use of the Collins Respirometer and for Calculation and Interpretation of Data
in Pulmonary Function and Basal Metabolism Testing. Boston: Warren E. Collins, Inc.; [1957?].

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Collins WE Jr. Foreward [to a catalog]. Braintree, Massachusetts: Warren E. Collins, Inc.; [1970?].

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Dorsch JA, Dorsch SE. Airway volumes, flows and pressures. In: Understanding Anesthesia Equipment. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008:731-732.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Innocenti A. [Slide 31 of] Breve storia illustrata della spirometria [slide presentation]. Med Lav Parma website. Accessed January 6, 2014.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Young JA, Crocker D. Pulmonary function testing. In: Principles and Practice of Inhalation Therapy. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, Inc.; 1970:275-278.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: One respirometer with a water-sealed spirometer, counter balanced bell, and two recording drum capacity (one of the recording drums is not with this item; The water-sealed spirometer, is a cylinder on the left that measures approximately 48.5 cm in height and 19 cm in diameter; The exterior of the spirometer, and the base of the respirometer, may be finished in a baked enamel; The printing spool on the right measures approximately 43.5 cm in height and 15.5 cm in diameter; The height from the top of the base to the top of the pulley is approximately 71.5 cm; The manufacturer’s plate on the front of the top of the base is printed with, “RESPIROMETER [new line] WARREN E. COLLINS INCORPORATED [new line] Specialists In Respiration Apparatus [new line] 555 HUNTINGTON AVENUE, BOSTON 15, MASSACHUSETTS [new line] CAP. 9 LITERS 1484 FACTOR 20.73CC/MM”.

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch, June 13, 2013, and September 23, 2013.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: This respirometer was used for tests that measure how well a person’s lungs take in and release air and how much oxygen is absorbed from the atmosphere into the body’s circulation. The patient followed specific instructions for inhaling and exhaling through tubing that was connected to the left side of the respirometer. Movements in the water-sealed spirometer on the left were recorded on graph paper attached to rotating drums on the right. The end result was a visual and numerical representation of the patient’s breathing functions.

Respirometers might be used to assess a patient before surgery, to test an anesthesia machine or to measure breathing and metabolism in a research setting. Anesthesiologiststs use smaller respirometers, that function via different mechanisms, on anesthesia machines to measure the volume and rate of the patient’s breathing. Respirometers are one of the instruments that aid in monitoring the patient during anesthesia to ensure optimal care as well as to detect potential problems.

This respirometer was manufactured by Warren E. Collins, Inc. of Massachusetts. The company also manufactured the first “iron lung” (an early ventilator) designed by Dr. Philip Drinker in 1928. A few years later an iron lung designed by John Emerson (1906-1997) became a more favored model.

Note Type: Acquisition
Notes: Donated to the WLM by The Crawford W. Long Museum in Jefferson, Georgia.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Selected for the WLM website.