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Peter Safar (12 April 1924 – 2 August 2003) was an Austrian anesthesiologist of Czech descent. He is credited with pioneering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Peter Safar
Born12 April 1924
Died2 August 2003
Alma materUniversity of Vienna, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania
Known forCardiopulmonary resuscitation
Scientific career

Early lifeEdit

Safar was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1924 into a medical family. His father was an ophthalmologist and his mother, who had a Jewish grandmother,[1] was a pediatrician. He graduated from the University of Vienna in 1948. He married Eva Kyzivat and moved from Vienna to Hartford, Connecticut, in 1949 for surgical training at Yale University. He completed training in anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1952. That same year he worked in Lima, Peru, and founded that country's first academic anesthesiology department. In 1954, he became chief of the department of anesthesiology at Baltimore City Hospital.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitationEdit

Together with James Elam, he rediscovered the initial steps in CPR. These included the head tilt and chin lift maneuver to open the airway of an unconscious victim, as well as the mouth-to-mouth breathing. He influenced Norwegian doll maker Asmund Laerdal of Laerdal company to design and manufacture mannequins for CPR training called Resusci Anne. Safar, who began to work on CPR in 1956 at Baltimore City Hospital, demonstrated in a series of experiments on paralyzed human volunteers that rescuer exhaled-air mouth-to-mouth breathing could maintain satisfactory oxygen levels in the non-spontaneously breathing victim,[2] and showed that even laypeople could effectively perform mouth-to-mouth breathing to save lives. He combined the A (Airway) and B (Breathing) components of CPR with the C (chest compressions). He wrote the book ABC of Resuscitation in 1957, which established the basis for mass training of CPR.[3] This A-B-C system for CPR training of the public was later adopted by the American Heart Association, which promulgated standards for CPR in 1973.[4]

Other achievementsEdit

Safar's other achievements included the establishment of the United States' first intensive-care unit in 1958, at Baltimore City Hospital. In 1961, he went to the University of Pittsburgh, where he established its notable academic anesthesiology department and the world's first intensive-care medicine training program. In 1966, he was deeply moved by the death of his daughter, Elizabeth, at the age of 12 from an acute asthmatic crisis. He initiated the Freedom House Enterprise Ambulance Service, one of the first prehospital emergency medical services in the United States in 1967 and together with Dr. Nancy Caroline, developed standards for emergency medical technician (EMT) education and training, as well as standards for mobile intensive-care ambulance design and equipment.[5] Freedom House Ambulance service employed young African Americans who were deemed "unemployable".[6] Several members of Freedom House went on to establish successful careers in EMS and public safety.

In 1976, Safar co-founded the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WADEM), which is dedicated to saving lives in major disasters. He stepped down from the chairmanship of anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh and founded the International Resuscitation Research Center (now the University of Pittsburgh Safar Center for Resuscitation Research) in 1979, dedicated to cardiopulmonary cerebral resuscitation (CPCR).

With Nicholas Bircher he published a textbook on CPCR that became the international standard. In March 1989, he assembled an interdisciplinary team of researchers – composed of the following individuals: Miroslav Klain, M.D. (Anesthesiologist), Edmund Ricci, Ph. D. (Evaluation research), Ernesto A. Pretto, Jr., M.D. (Anesthesiologist), Joel Abrams, Ph.D. (Engineering), and Louise Comfort, Ph. D. (Social Science) – which became known as the University of Pittsburgh Disaster Reanimatology Study Group (DRSG). This research team in partnership with a team of Russian and Armenian physicians conducted the first international interdisciplinary disaster evaluation research field survey study of the earthquake in Armenia.[citation needed] The Armenia study led to a series of post-disaster field studies by the DRSG in Costa Rica (1991), Turkey (1993), and Japan (1994). These studies helped to establish the "Golden 24 Hours" of emergency response in disasters and inspired Norwegian anesthesiologist and humanitarian Dr. Knut Ole Sundnes to establish in 1995 the Task Force of Quality Control of Disaster Management (TFQCDM), under the auspices of the Nordic Society of Disaster Medicine and WADEM.[citation needed]

Safar practiced and taught clinical anesthesiology at Presbyterian University Hospital in Pittsburgh until the age of 65, but he continued his research activities until his death. His lifelong goal was to "save the hearts and brains of those too young to die" and to improve the life-saving potential in disasters, a field he called "Disaster Reanimatology."[citation needed] In 1990, he appointed Ernesto Pretto, M.D., as leader of the Disaster program.

In 1999, Safar was awarded the Cross of Honor, Austria’s highest civilian honor, for his services in the field of medicine. He was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Medicine. On 13 September 2014, the Alliance of Germanic Societies of Pittsburgh honored him, as well.[7]

Safar died on 3 August 2003 at his home[8] in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, from cancer.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Wright, Pearce (13 August 2003), "Peter Safar: Surgical pioneer of emergency life-saving methods", The Guardian.
  2. ^ Safar, Peter (20 May 1961). "Ventilation and circulation with closed-chest cardiac massage in man". JAMA. 176 (7): 574. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040200010003. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  3. ^ Petechuk, David (October 1999). "Time of death: Postponed". PittMed (University of Pitsburgh School of Medicine Magazine). 1 (1): 22.
  4. ^ Srikameswaran, Anita (21 March 2002). "Dr. Peter Safar: A life devoted to cheating death". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
  5. ^ Staresinic, Chuck (February 2004). "Send Freedom House!" (PDF). PittMed. 6 (1): 32–34.
  6. ^ Karns, Jameson (15 October 2015). "Paramedics of Freedom House: Empowerment Through Paramedicine". EMS World.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)"Dr. Peter Safar (1924–2003) was the very special honoree for his year. He was introduced by Robert Tate, President of the Austrian Society of Pittsburgh who lauded this Viennese born and educated Doctor for his life’s achievements in medicine. Dr. Safar has been honored world-wide for improvements in medical practice and advances in medical science. His achievements were wide ranging from the development of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and as a founder of the nation’s first medical/surgical intensive care unit. Dr. Safar was chairman of the Anesthesiology Department, where he held the title of Distinguished Professor. In 1999, he was awarded the 'Cross of Honor', Austria’s highest civilian honor for his services in the field of medicine."
  8. ^ Srikameswaran, Anita (5 August 2003), "Obituary: Dr. Peter Safar / Renowned Pitt physician called 'father of CPR'", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  9. ^ "Dear Friends and Colleagues" (Press release). Safar Center for Resuscitation Research. 4 August 2003. Archived from the original on 8 October 2003. Retrieved 14 September 2009.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit