Forrest Bird moved to Palm Springs and founded Bird Oxygen Breathing Equipment Inc. in 1953. He located the company’s laboratory and manufacturing facility in a building adjacent to the Palm Springs airport.
His experience as a pilot and technical training officer during WWII allowed him to fly almost every aircraft in service during the war, including early jets and helicopters. He discovered an oxygen regulator in a crashed German bomber that seemed to contain a pressure breathing circuit. He took the oxygen regulator home, studied it, and made it more functional. It became the standard design for high-altitude oxygen regulators for most military aircraft for decades after.
His interest led him to study medicine, not to practice, but “to understand the human body and its stress in flight.” He eventually earned a doctorate in aeronautical engineering and became expert in physiology and medical physics. His invention the Bird Assister-Controller Mark III and the Bird Resuscitator Mark VII ventilators has been hailed by medical men throughout the country as one the greatest inventions in modern respiratory medicine. His highly efficient respirators and ventilators were adopted as the standard of care for decades.
In 1978, Bird Oxygen Breathing Equipment Inc. was reconfigured and combined with Bird Space Technology into Bird Corporation owned entirely debt-free by Forrest Bird. When he merged Bird into 3M corporation, he made yet another fortune. Eventually,
Bird moved to Idaho, opening a museum, restoring all sorts of aircraft, and creating a compound where he could continue working on his myriad inventions. He lived there until his death at age 94 in 2015. Having lived for so many years in Palm Springs, his move away to the north is exactly opposite of so many “snowbirds” do today.
There is a multitude of ways to learn more about Palm Springs, which turned 82 in 2020. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring the city’s history.
The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place corresponds with today. The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive.
For more information, visit pshistoricalsociety.org.