Whether you work as a lumberjack or not, you may be curious why the chainsaw was created.
Early models of these practical sawing instruments were employed in the 19th century to cut through wood. However, it seems that the chainsaw as we know it today was first intended to be a medical tool—one that would help with childbirth.
Despite the undoubtedly graphic details that follow, you can be sure that doctors at the time did not stab ladies with fuel-powered chainsaws. The crude chainsaw was designed to aid and speed up the process of symphysiotomy (widening the pubic cartilage) and removing disease-laden bone.
Thankfully, medical progress has made it possible to go beyond symphysiotomy and the osteotome. Thanks to several breakthroughs in technique, clinical practice, and hygiene, childbirth is now much safer, and cesarean sections are much more successful.
The chainsaw that is in use today
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several innovators developed saws with flexible chains that operated on gasoline or steam. However, none of these early creations were useful because of their bulky engines. They made them difficult to move, according to Jim Waldrop of the British Columbia Provincial Museum.
According to Waldrop, Canadian logger James Shand was granted the first gasoline-powered portable chainsaw patent in 1918.
What Was the Original Name of the Chainsaw?
The chainsaw prototype was known as a “flexible saw” until German physician Bernhard Heine redesigned it in 1830. At first, he referred to it as an osteotome. (The root word “ost” in osteotome means “bone.”)
Who invented the chainsaw?
The doctors John Aitken and James Jeffrey truly designed the terrifying-looking childbirth instrument in Scotland. The chainsaw is said to have been invented in the 1780s by two Scottish physicians.
John Aitken started working as a surgeon at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary. He also lectured and demonstrated medicine to college students. He is credited with creating the chainsaw, among other useful advancements in surgery.
Dr. Jeffray, who attended both Glasgow and Edinburgh universities and was well-known for dissecting the bodies of murder suspects, was Dr. Aitken’s inventive partner.
Why was the chainsaw invented?
You read that right—the chainsaw was initially created to help in delivery. This is shocking.
Before the widespread usage of cesarean sections, every fetus had to transit through the birth canal.
Babies that are overly big or breech—where they lie feet first in the womb rather than the customary head-first position—inevitably run the risk of becoming trapped.
In the 18th century, a procedure called medically a “symphysiotomy” was used to remove portions of bone and cartilage from the pelvis to make room for a baby that couldn’t fit through or became lodged there.
The bone was manually removed using a tiny knife and saw during this unpleasant and disorganized non-anesthetic surgery.
What was meant by a symphysiotomy?
Throughout symphysiotomies, the surgeons’ chainsaw was utilized. This was a procedure used on expectant mothers during delivery, as opposed to the current standard of a caesarian section.
A symphysiotomy is an incision made through the ligaments and cartilage of the pelvic joint to expand it and facilitate an unobstructed delivery of a baby. The risks of infection, discomfort, bladder injury, and even chronic trouble walking were higher in women.
Beginning in 1597, surgery was widely used to treat obstructed labor; however, as procedures and cleanliness improved, the risk of maternal death from a caesarian section dropped, and the procedure became less common in the latter part of the 20th century.
The initial purpose of chainsaws was childbirth. As was previously suggested, a chainsaw would be employed in addition to a symphysiotomy to aid with birthing. Giving birth today takes courage and determination, but things were much worse for women in the 1700s.