As bizarre as it looks, M. Wolliez’s spirophore was a forerunner of the iron lung. It was the first negative pressure ventilator that was both widely used, and easily useable over long periods of time.
The first negative pressure ventilator that has a name attached to it was described by the Scottish physician John Dalziel, in 1832. However, successful use of similar apparatuses has been recorded as far back as the turn of the 19th century.
Wolliez’s model was hand-powered, but the bellows made it possible to perform resuscitation on a possible drowning victim or stillbirth for hours on end, provided your assistant had able arms. In the age of fears of premature burial, wealthy patrons with well-equipped physicians would were known to insist on their stillborn children being placed in the spirophore and ventilated for long periods, before being declared dead.
While its uses in reviving the stillborn were notable but limited, a larger version of the spirophore apparatus was also used, especially in the British Raj, where snakes with neurotoxins, and British people with poor swimming skills were frequent causes for calls to the physician. The larger spirophores (and later, automated iron lungs) were extremely useful in recovery from cobra and mamba snakebites - as most deaths were caused by paralysis of the diaphragm and suffocation, if the patient was kept alive long enough to break down the toxin, they had a decent chance of survival if they avoided subsequent infection.
Cyclopaedia of the Diseases of Children, Medical and Surgical. Edited by John M. Keating, 1890.
Bottom image via Technologies Biomedicales (original from Wolliez Patent)