Emanuel M. Greenberg identified the issues of preemies dying due to the immaturity of their organs. He designed a system hoping to help these babies live longer. In the summer of 1955 he patented his Illustration of an artificial womb.

Patent Drawing by Emanuel M. Greenberg.

Just like baby incubators already existing at that time, this artificial womb was conceived to keep the fetus at a consistent temperature with access to oxygen, in hygienic surroundings. But unlike incubators, the babies going into Greenberg's artificial womb would keep their umbilical cord and placenta and would be attached to the artificial system. Greenberg envisioned an artificial womb able to make nutrition circulate and to get rid of waste from the fetus within the system itself, much like the natural way. In the drawing, the artificial womb has a box for the fetus, an artificial kidney and a blood supply. "The blood for the placenta is circulated by means of two pumps through an artificial kidney, an oxygenating apparatus, a container where liquid food is added, and a filter which removes blood clots and other solid matter" Greenberg wrote in his patent document. "A circulating water supply is provided which heats water to body temperature and by means of waterjackets maintains the fetus chamber and the oxygenating apparatus at body temperature".

Patent Drawing: cross-sectional drawing of the oxygenating 2,723,660 by Emanuel M Greenberg, 1995.

There is no evidence that such a machine was ever constructed. While this seemingly comprehensive structure fulfill the technical requirements, it doesn't seem to cater to the emotional needs of infants during their stay inside the machine. With an artificial womb patented as early as 1955, where will the progress bring us? Maybe a machine that provides emotional care as well.

This article is part of the Artificial Womb research project by NNN. The goal of this project is to develop thought-provoking scenarios that facilitate a much-needed discussion about the way technology radically alters our attitude towards reproduction, gender, relationships and love in the 21st century. We highly value your feedback or input, contributions can be sent to womb@nextnature.org.

Images: Google Patents

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