Forrest M. Bird
Forrest Bird was born in Stoughton, Massachusetts, on June 9, 1921. Bird became a pilot at an early age due to the encouragement of his father, a World War I pilot, and from meeting Orville Wright at an early age. He performed his first solo flight at age 14; by age 16, he was working to obtain multiple major pilot certifications. Bird enlisted with the United States Army Air Corps, and entered active duty in 1941 as a technical air training officer. This rank, combined with the onset of World War II, gave him the opportunity to pilot almost every aircraft in service including early jet aircraft and helicopters.
By 1955, after having attended numerous medical schools and completed diverse residencies, he developed the prototype Bird Universal Medical Respirator for acute or chronic cardiopulmonary care. He tested the device by traveling in his own airplanes to medical schools and asking doctors for their most ill patients. In each case, known therapies had failed and the patient was expected to succumb to cardiopulmonary failure. Bird then invented the Baby Bird® respirator for infants that helped reduce mortality rates from 70 to less than ten percent for infants with respiratory problems.
A true inventor and entrepreneur, Bird holds more than 200 patents and founded Bird Corporation in 1954 and now is the founder and owner of Percussionarie Corporation based in Sandpoint, Idaho. Based on his research, the company developed a number of advanced breathing-related devices, including the Mark 7® Respirator, which provides the patient with volume ventilation and is still in use around the world.
Bird won the Lifetime Scientific Achievement Award in 1985 and received another one in September 2005. He continues to contribute to the field of pulmonary science by participating in the development of the VDR, a ventilator that permits management of the most challenging patients including ARDS, Trauma and inhalation injury. In 1995, Bird was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame; he is still working with their research teams. He was named “Inventor of the Week” by MIT in February 2001.
Bird is president of Bird Space Technology in Sandpoint, Idaho. He and his wife, Pamela Bird, are founders of the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center, located on their northern Idaho ranch. This unique aero-medical museum features a rotating collection of more than 20 unique aircraft, rare vintage cars and a display of inventions from Bird and others.
Bird has been honored with several prestigious awards, including the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008, presented by President George W. Bush in a ceremony in the Oval Office. This special award honors those who have served the country in extraordinary ways and has only been presented to approximately 100 other citizens to date. Bird visited the Oval Office again in 2009, when he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama, who said of Bird: “Inventors are national icons, embodying the very best of American ingenuity and inspire a new generation of thinkers and innovators. Their extraordinary achievements strengthen our nation every day — not just intellectually and technologically, but also economically, by helping create new industries and opportunities that others before them could never have imagined.
The degree of Doctor of Science was conferred upon Bird by the University of Idaho in 2011.
Aviator, innovator, entrepreneur, scientist, professor, physician, veteran overall Renaissance man, Forrest Morton Bird died Sunday, August 2, 2015 at the age of 94 at his home in Sagle, Idaho. Obituary written by his wife Pamela Bird (pdf).