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Inventor: Cluny Macpherson (1879-1966)
During the First World War the German army used poison gas for the first time, against Allied troops at Ypres, Belgium in 1915. A soldier's only protection was to breath through a handkerchief or other small piece of fabric soaked in urine.
Out of necessity, Doctor Cluny Macpherson, from St. John's, Newfoundland, quickly came up with the idea of a gas mask made of fabric and metal. Using a helmet taken from a captured German prisoner, he added a canvas hood with eyepieces and a breathing tube. The helmet was treated with chemicals that would absorb the chlorine used in the gas attacks. He had invented the world's first gas mask. After a few improvements, Cluny Macpherson's helmet became the first gas mask to be used by the British army.
This Canadian's invention was the most important protective device of the First World War, protecting countless soldiers from blindness, disfigurement or injury to their throats and lungs. Gas masks are worn by millions of soldiers around the world today.
Brown, J.J. The Inventors: Great Ideas in Canadian Enterprise. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967.
Dr. Cluny Macpherson fonds. Health Sciences Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
(accessed February 11, 2005).