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B R E ATH


The world’s worst jobs


In 1832, Leeds physician Charles Turner Thackrah published The Effects of Arts, Trades, and Professions on Health and Longevity, a book linking diseases with specific working conditions. Thackrah listed chronic bronchitis as a frequent malady of men work- ing in dusty employments, such as cloth dressers and croppers, Cornish miners, coffee roasters, leather dressers, flaxmen and metal button-makers.


Sir Hiram Maxim’s ‘Pipe of Peace’


A killing machine


Despite his impact on the hundreds of thousands of people who bought his pipe in the early 1900s, Maxim has a rather different lasting legacy – as inventor of the automatic machine gun. He also developed an automatic mousetrap, the first sprinkler system activated by fire and a carbon- based electric light (in use before Thomas Edison’s better-known incandescent bulb). While Maxim’s early steam-powered airplane only left the ground briefly, his Captive Flying Machines fairground rides were installed outside the Crystal Palace and at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The application of his skills to the Pipe of Peace was a step too far for Maxim’s friends, though, one of whom accused him of ‘prostituting his talents on quack nostrums’.


From the foregoing it will be seen that it is a very creditable thing to invent a killing machine, and nothing less than a disgrace to invent an apparatus to prevent human suff ering.


Sir Hiram Maxim


Sir Hiram Maxim’s ‘Pipe of Peace’ Glass, rubber, cloth and netting Hiram Maxim, c.1910 RRa0113 / 1981-982/2 Science Museum / L0076316 Wellcome Images


American inventor Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840– 1916) devised this inhaler to treat his own chronic bronchitis. The swan-necked pipe allowed vapours from Maxim’s calming remedy to be delivered to the back of the throat. With characteristic humility, Maxim called his concoction ‘dirigo’, the Latin for ‘I lead’. The mixture combined menthol with pine, wintergreen and sweet birch essences.


Hiram Maxim (centre) and Henry Wellcome (right) at the feast of the Thanksgiving Day Banquet of the American Society of London From an original drawing by Herbert Johnson, 1896 L0033982 Wellcome Images


Read


Connor S. The Matter of Air: Science and the art of the ethereal. London: Reaktion Books; 2010.


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