A Silver Lining: Who Invented the Machine?

Since the production of the first Boyle’s Machine its name has endured. Its continuous development means it is still available today.

Although the machine bears Boyle’s name, many believe that it was invented by Marshall.

Geoffrey Marshall

Geoffrey Marshall

Portrait photograph of Henry Boyle

Henry Boyle

Marshall qualified in medicine in 1911. He was interested in respiratory physiology. Boyle qualified in medicine in 1901. He was interested in anaesthetics.
Marshall joined up at the outbreak of the First World War and served in France. At the start of the First World War, Boyle joined the Royal Army Medical Corps  but did not serve abroad. He treated soldiers in British hospitals.
In 1915 Marshall went to a Casualty Clearing Station to help reduce the mortality rate of soldiers suffering from shock many of whom needed amputations. By 1917 Boyle reported on 1,000 cases of nitrous oxide and oxygen with ether or chloroform.
Marshall designed a machine and asked a tinsmith in France to make it. He took his drawings to Coxeter when he was on leave. Marshall reduced the mortality rate from 90% to 25%. Boyle met Gwathmey in 1913 and was influenced by him. But by 1917 he was dissatisfied with Gwathmey’s apparatus.
Coxeter urged Marshall to publish his apparatus. Some say the drawings had been ‘borrowed’. Marshall published his apparatus in 1920. Historians have suggested that it was Boyle who borrowed Marshall’s drawings. Boyle published his machine in 1919 and thanked Marshall for his help and suggestions for alterations.
 Marshall wanted to be a physician not an anaesthetist.  Boyle continued to improve his machine and became a renowned anaesthetist.

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