How a drowned woman became the face of CPR

Wednesday August 28, 2019 Written by James

A little fact for anyone who’s ever practised CPR on a mannequin: you’ve probably been breathing into the mouth of a dead French woman.

Here’s the story. In the late 1880s, Parisian authorities pulled a woman’s body from the River Seine. Nobody knew her name, so she became known as L’Inconnue de la Seine (The Stranger of the Seine).

Paris Morgue’s pathologist was apparently so captivated by the Stranger’s oddly tranquil features that he made a wax death mask. Local artists started copying the design. The upper classes picked it up too. Soon, busts of L’Inconnue de la Seine were sitting on Parisian mantelpieces all over town.

Here’s the odd bit: when Peter Safar and Norwegian toymaker Asmund Laerdal came to design the first CPR ‘doll’ in the 1950s (the famous ‘Rescue Annie’), they modelled its face on L’Inconnue de la Seine. Laerdal thought that people might take CPR training more seriously if they were blowing into a realistic human mouth.

It’s since been dubbed “the most kissed face of all time”.

Via the BBC