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A Brief (and Amazing) History Of Supplemental Oxygen

In recent years, millions around the world are starting to learn about the benefits of supplemental oxygen. Much like Gatorade became widely accepted for hydration recovery and sports performance in the 1980s after years of public education, portable supplemental oxygen is taking a similar path in terms of education, acceptance and growth.

The journey from oxygen’s discovery in 1774 to the popularity of Boost Oxygen in 2020 is certainly amazing. We present a brief history of supplemental oxygen and all the interesting facts and milestones along the way!

A Brief and Amazing History of Supplemental Oxygen – The Early Years

Joseph Priestly

Joseph Priestly

Carl Wilhelm Scheele

Carl Wilhelm Scheele

The discovery of Oxygen: English chemist Joseph Priestly usually gets credit for discovering oxygen in 1774 – but it was German chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele who likely discovered the element back in 1773, but he didn’t publish the discovery until after Priestly made his announcement. In fact, Scheele made a number of chemical discoveries during his life – but never got proper credit because other chemists beat him to publication. Proving the old adage that if you snooze, you lose.

Antoine Lavoisier

Antoine Lavoisier

“Oxygen” is the WRONG NAME for Oxygen: In 1777, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier introduced a name for the newly discovered element, but he ended up being wrong. Based on his experiments, Lavoisier believed the new element caused acidity, so he combined the Greek words “OXY” meaning ACID and “GENES” meaning FORMING to create “OXYGEN” or “ACID MAKER”. However, his theory was later proven to be incorrect, but by that time the name “Oxygen” had already become widely accepted and commonplace.

Early references to supplemental oxygen: In 1776, Thomas Henry (a renowned surgeon and chemist) speculated that oxygen might become “as fashionable as French wine at the fashionable taverns”. He did not expect, however, that tavern goers would “relish calling for a bottle of air, instead of Claret” (a popular red wine at the time).

Another early reference to the recreational use of oxygen is found in Jules Verne’s 1870 novel Around the Moon. In this work, Verne states: “Do you know, my friends, that a curious establishment might be founded with rooms of oxygen, where people whose system is weakened could for a few hours live a more active life. Fancy parties where the room was saturated with this heroic fluid, theaters where it should be kept at high pressure; what passion in the souls of the actors and spectators! What fire, what enthusiasm! And if, instead of an assembly only a whole people could be saturated, what activity in its functions, what a supplement to life it would derive. From an exhausted nation they might make a great and strong one, and I know more than one state in old Europe which ought to put itself under the regime of oxygen for the sake of its health!”

1885– On March 6th, the first recorded use of oxygen was administered by Dr. George Holtzapple for the treatment of pneumonia.

Dr. George HoltzappleDr. George Holtzapple

1887– Oxygen devices capable of storing oxygen to be used intermittently become available for use.

1908 – One of the first documented uses of oxygen for sports performance occurred in 1908 when Scottish swimmer Jacob “Jabez” Wolffe used supplemental oxygen as part of his attempt to swim across the English Channel. Wolffe used a long rubber tube to breathe in pure oxygen while crossing the channel (he narrowly missed being the first to accomplish the feat, giving up just a quarter mile from France).

Jacob WolffeJacob Wolffe

1917– An oxygen apparatus is designed by Jon Scott Jaldane to be used to treat gassed soldiers in World War I.

Jon Scott JaldaneJon Scott Jaldane

1922– British physiologist Archibald Hill proposes the concept of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 Max) during exercise in humans. What is VO2 Max? It is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise. Since then, VO2 max assessment has been conducted primarily in laboratory-based treadmill running and is also used to measure sports performance.

VO2 Max Testing

Supplemental Oxygen Gains Popularity

World War II (1939 – 1945) Medical use of oxygen made major leaps and bounds starting with World War II. Oxygen was mainly being used in hospitals to treat patients with a variety of respiratory issues.

1950– During the 1950s oxygen begins to be prescribed to patients suffering from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) with the invention of small, portable, high-pressure cylinders. Portable oxygen also begins to be used in ambulances to treat patients during medical emergencies.

Home Oxygen Therapy

(Did you know – no one is allergic to oxygen! That’s why emergency medical responders can immediately give anyone oxygen in an emergency situation without knowing the patient medical history.)

1953 – On May 29, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain Mount Everest, their achievement was rightly hailed as a triumph of human endurance and skill. They did it using a specially designed oxygen breathing apparatus.

Mount Everest

1954– Roger Bannister, the original four-minute mile runner, published a paper on the endurance-boosting effects of supplemental pure oxygen just a few weeks after his famous race in 1954.

1960s – Professional athletes (notably football players) began using oxygen tanks on the sidelines during games for respiratory recovery and when playing at high-altitude locations like Denver where there can be less oxygen in the air.

Oxygen on the sidelines

1970s– Throughout the early 1970s, industrial gas suppliers begin to deliver large oxygen cylinders to patient homes for medical use. Finally, you could own your own oxygen therapy unit in your home.

Portable Supplemental Oxygen Goes Mainstream

1988 – With air quality and air pollution becoming a concern in many Asian countries, the first “Oxygen Bar” opens in Tokyo, Japan, providing pure oxygen to customers for 75 cents. The trend would quickly spread throughout Asia, and then to North America in the 1990s with Oxygen Bars opening in Toronto, New York, California, Florida, Las Vegas and the Rocky Mountain region.

Oxygen Bar

Oxygen Bar

2007 – Rob Neuner officially launches Boost Oxygen in the United States, and the portable 95% pure oxygen canisters become an immediate hit in the Colorado resort towns and throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

Related Article: How It All Started – The Story Behind Boost Oxygen

Boost Oxygen CEO Rob Neuner

Boost Oxygen Founder and CEO Rob Neuner

2012 – Sports Authority becomes the first major retailer to carry Boost Oxygen, introducing portable supplemental oxygen on a nationwide level and providing consumers with easy and immediate access to supplemental oxygen. Boost is now carried at several major retailers including Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, Dick’s Sporting Goods and more!

Sports Authority

2012– Supplemental oxygen causes controversy during a Guinness world record attempt. German freediver Tom Sietas held his breath underwater for 22 minutes and 22 seconds, besting Denmark’s Stig Severinsen’s previous Guinness record by 22 seconds. However, Guinness would not recognize Sietas record as he hyperventilated with supplemental oxygen beforehand his attempt.

2017 – Boost Oxygen is made available for players on the sidelines during Super Bowl LI between The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. Since then, several NFL teams have implemented Boost Oxygen during practice, training and sidelines during games.

Boost Oxygen at the Super Bowl

2019– Boost Oxygen appears on the hit ABC television show “Shark Tank”, earning a million-dollar deal from Mr. Wonderful Kevin O’Leary. The Shark Tank appearance results in millions of viewers learning about the benefits of Boost Oxygen.

Related Article: A Million Dollar deal for Boost Oxygen on Shark Tank

2020 – Interest and education about the benefits of supplemental oxygen increases during the Covid pandemic. Doctors and hospitals are treating Covid patients with supplemental oxygen, resulting in a surge of interest for information. Supplemental oxygen also makes worldwide headlines after it was given to the President when he briefly became ill.

2020 – It’s been said that you’ve achieved mainstream popularity if you’re featured on the long-running hit series The Simpsons. In a true testament to the rising popularity of Boost Oxygen, a November 2020 episode of the Simpsons (S32 E08 – “The Road To Cincinnati”) prominently featured portable oxygen during a scene on the show.  Link: Watch the footage of portable oxygen on The Simpsons

Portable Oxygen on The Simpsons

The Future of Portable Supplemental Oxygen

Certainly, 2020 saw a major increase in the interest and education about portable supplemental oxygen. Boost Oxygen has also experienced major expansion in terms of production and availability at retailers and online.

Boost Oxygen also received a major endorsement in September 2020 from retired US Air Force Lt. General and former Surgeon General Paul K. Carlton, who said “I believe Boost Oxygen should be placed in every first aid kid and resuscitation station on our country.” He also believes it has the potential to change the future of resuscitative medicine.

When Rob Neuner launched Boost Oxygen in 2007, his mission was to make portable supplemental oxygen as easy and widely available to consumers as bottled water. Today, that mission is nearly a reality thanks to our loyal customers, retailers and partners. It took a decade for the benefits of Gatorade to be accepted by the general public– and today it is one of the biggest brand names in the world.

The general public continues to understand the benefits of portable supplemental oxygen as an all-natural respiratory support for athletes, older adults and those at high-altitude or experiencing poor air quality.

Obviously, we are very excited about the future of Boost Oxygen – and we hope you are as well!