- Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center
Forrest Bird, 94, passed away Aug. 2 at his home in Sagle, Idaho
Forrest Bird, famed inventor and aviator, died at his home in the rural north Idaho community of Sagle on Sunday, August 2. He was 94.
A veteran of the Second World War, Bird flew nearly every aircraft in service with the United States Army Air Corps—including the first jets and helicopters. His experiences as a pilot led to his numerous breakthroughs in the field of respirator technology. Bird's first major innovation came in the mid-1950s with the Bird Universal Medical Respirator, which remains in use today. Adapted for use by infants, the so-called "Babybird" ventilator was released in 1970 and has been credited with helping reduce infant mortality in breathing-related cases from 70 percent to 10 percent.
Bird was also an aviation innovator. His Bird Corporation in 1967 released the Bird Innovator aircraft, which maximized performance of the PBY Catalina amphibious plane. In 2008 he was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal from then-President George W. Bush and, in 2009, was honored with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama.
More than 200 patents bear Bird's name, and the inventor was featured on a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office collectible card. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1995.
The Bird respirator, invented in the mid-1950s, is still in use at hospitals around the world.
Born in Stoughton, Mass. in 1921, Bird first visited north Idaho during World War II, when he met his future wife, Sandpoint native Mary Moran. Moran suffered from pulmonary emphysema and Bird used her in his research on respirator technology. While she died in 1986, Bird's Intrapulmonary Percussive Ventilator is believed to have extended her life by 10 years.
He purchased a large property on Lake Pend Oreille in the mid-1960s. Over the following decade, Bird developed the property into a combination research facility, manufacturing plant, ranch and airfield. It was routine to see Bird's unique planes and helicopters flying over the lake and, in 2007, he and his current wife, Pamela, opened the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center. The museum, located on the Bird property, displays rare and vintage automobiles and aircraft, and hosts visitors and school groups from around the country.