The Both brothers

The Both brothers are unknown in Australia, or anywhere else for that matter, and yet these two South Australians made significant contributions to the development of many items of modern medical equipment.

Ted Both was an Australian inventor credited with the development of a number of medical, military and other inventions. These included a low-cost iron lung, a humidicrib, the first portable electrocardiograph and the forerunner to the modern fax machine he called a visitel. His inventions gained him an OBE in 1940, and his work led to Both being known as the Edison of Australia by a staff reporter of the Australian Womens Weekly (30 Aug 1941).

Edward Thomas Both was born 26 Apr 1908 at Caltowie, the eldest of the five children of James Alexander Both and Lucy Victoria Thomas. His youngest brother, Donald James Ross was born 29 Jan 1914.

The Both children attended Caltowie Primary and Jamestown High schools where Edward proved to be such a good student that when he was sixteen he began studying at the Physics Department at the University of Adelaide. There he caught the attention of Sir Kerr Grant, an eminent physics professor, who appointed him as his personal assistant. In 1932 Both developed an electrocardiograph (ECG) and as a result the impressed Grant had a facility installed next to the University where Both could design and produce medical equipment. Unfortunately this diverted Edward away from his studies and he never completed his degree and when asked about this in later life, he responded, 'I just never got round to it.'

Brother, Don, became the designer and the person to make the designs functional.

The Both brothers worked in a facility called the Both Laboratories established on the end of the western wing of the old Armoury and Mounted Police Barracks behind the SA Museum. This structure has since been demolished.

In 1937 Adelaide experienced a severe outbreak of Poliomyelitis and the Both brothers were asked by the SA Health Department to develop a cheap Iron Lung as the American version was complex to use and expensive. The Both Cabinet Respirator was quickly in production. During the summer of 1937–38, the demand for the Iron lung was so great, that within an hour of each one being completed it was being used by a patient! The epidemic spread to England and Both move there with the support of Lord Nuffield who undertook to manufacture the Iron Lungs in the Morris factory to supply the whole British Empire.

Some of Ted Both's productions are well-known even though few know he was the man behind the product. These included:

• a device to record the rate of machine-gun fire, and another which instantly detected flaws in gun-barrels.
• a three-wheeled front wheel drive, that could turn in its own length, electric bread delivery van due to petrol rationing.
• the Visitel, a device that transmitted handwriting or a drawing over any distance while it was being written or drawn.
• the Davis Cup scoreboards.
• the 1956 Melbourne Olympics scoreboard.

The greatest contributions of the Both Laboratories was in medical equipment. In 1953 Don Both, who remained in Adelaide while Ted was in Sydney, designed the Humidicrib which has since saved thousands of babies' lives. The brothers also produced the first electro-encephalograph, as well as x-ray equipment, nerve stimulators, foetal heart-recorders, suction units, tomographs, defibrillators, cardioscopes and blood transfusion equipment. All their apparatus was manufactured in the Adelaide workshops of Both Equipment Limited, then relocated to Tavistock Street (now Frome Street) and later to King William Street in Kent Town.

Edward Both married Lily Eileen Naughton in 1937 in Victoria, while Donald married Yvonne Watkins in 1939. Neither man had children. Edward died 18 Nov 1987 Mount Beauty VIC and Donald died 1 Sep 2005 SA.

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