Throughout history, man has come up with inventions supposedly to make life easier. Some, really great, some more peculiar than others, and some totally absurd. Yet, most of these inventions considered peculiar or absurd have been granted patents, to the amusement of many. One such invention deserves mention and recognition – an apparatus for “facilitating childbirth by centrifugal force.”
In 1965, George and Charlotte Blonsky, a childless couple from New York, invented a contraption that could aide a woman to give birth to a child, and had it patented. It consists of a turntable over which the woman who is ready to deliver is laid with her legs pointed outwards and is strapped down. The table is rotated at high speed, and when sufficient speed is reached (we wonder what speed will be sufficient), the baby should slide out of the birth canal propelled by the centrifugal force. The baby is supposed to get caught by an “infant reception net” as it flies out, located between the legs of the mother! Sounds like it belongs in cartoon episode of Tom and Jerry or Daffy Duck!
Well, as weird as it sounds, the Blonsky’s maintain their intentions were benevolent. It was created to “assist the under-equipped woman by creating a gentle, evenly distributed, properly directed, precision controlled force, that acts in unison with and supplements her own efforts.” We can only speculate as to what they were thinking, but they do have further reasons why they deemed the thing-a-ma-jig necessary, based on their patent application:
“It is known, that due to natural anatomical conditions, the fetus needs the application of considerable propelling force to enable it to push aside the constricting vaginal walls, to overcome the friction of the uteral and vaginal surfaces and to counteract the atmospheric pressure opposing the emergence of the child. In the case of a woman who has a fully developed muscular system and has had ample physical exertion all through the pregnancy, as is common with all more primitive peoples, nature provides all the necessary equipment and power to have a normal and quick delivery. This is not the case, however, with more civilized women who often do not have the opportunity to develop the muscles needed in confinement.”
Say what? Seems like a bunch of babble meant to impress (and confuse) the reader. The rest of the application describes in detail (with the aid of drawings) all the parts of the machine, how the patient would be loaded on the device, and the role the gynecologist would play in deciding what speed to use. We can just imagine a woman already distraught with labor pains having to deal with motion sickness.
In 2014, the Science Gallery in Dublin built a full-scale model of the Blonsky apparatus as part of their “Fail Better” exhibit which focuses on thought-provoking ideas and contraptions that failed miserably. The machine they built could go up to 7gs and comes with a bell, based on the original plans, that rings once the baby lands on the net “in case no one was paying attention,” explains Dublin’s Science Gallery researcher Tessa Delehanty. But there seems to have been no volunteers to test the whatchamacallit. The Blonsky apparatus was awarded in 1999 the Ig Nobel Prize, a satirical award that “honor achievements that make people laugh, and then think.” We wonder what the Blonsky’s (or their relatives) are thinking now, and if they were able to get a good laugh as well.