If the mask is added to the daily life of millions of people since the beginning of the pandemic, many will be surprised to learn that Montreal is among the pioneers, having obtained a first patent for this type of protection there will soon be a century.
Joseph Edouard LeDuc and his wife Margaret pose with their grandson, Claude. The inventor has had three children and four grandchildren.
On June 8, 1920, Joseph Edouard LeDuc was patenting a first mask machined, lined with a filter.
The covers-face, which was designed based on cellulose (a material similar to plastic), was stuffed full of cotton wool and attached behind the ears with the aid of two straps of fabric.
His first mask, patented in 1920, was designed cellulose-based and filled with cotton. The coins had been cut with heavy machinery. Initially, it had been designed for barbers.
Still cited in the patent modern, its prototype appears to be one of the ancestors of the famous N95 masks so sought after in the medical community currently to deal with the COVID-19.
Patented in 1925, this paper mask is one of the ancestors of the disposable mask.
The way in which the idea germinated in the mind of the inventor is for the less fun, depending on what that tells us about her grandson.
This prototype, which is the sixth on the table, was made of metal, with cotton filters on the inside.
First to the barbers
“Second-hand smoke has saved lives !” exclaimed on the phone, Edouard Jean Leduc-Guerin to introduce the history of his grand-father.
Indeed, a day of 1919, the inventor was in his barber shop while a man sitting next to him was smoking a “big cigar atrocious” inside, ” he says.
Bothered by the smell, the young man 21 years old at the time, began to imagine a little mask like that worn by the soldiers during the First world War, but which slips easily into the pocket of the pants.
On his first patent, obtained in 1920, this is not a surgeon that Mr. LeDuc has wanted to represent, but of a barber shop in full work.
“The mask was intended to be used, in this order, barbers, dentists, surgeons, and then to atmospheres, harmful, explains, laughing his grandson. This is not a doctor who is on the illustration of the patent, it is a barber who shaves a customer and wearing the mask. “
Proud of his idea far-fetched, the young inventor to the imagination would be discussed with a surgeon friend at the supper hour, said Mr Leduc-Guerin.
This patent, dated 1925, shows a first mask disposable, which is carried easily in the pocket of the pants.
At the time, the doctors who performed the surgeries had to wear on the face a kind of curtain has a slit at eye level, he would have mentioned his friend.
“He said that his idea was not stupid, adding : “It gets hot, it is not comfortable, it is hard to see. Have a mask attached after the face, that we would release it during operations,” ” he continued.
Used by Dr. Penfield
The logo of the company JEL was meant to be a symbol of protection, with the mask of the knight and the shield.
It is, as well as the emblem of his company, JEL – derived from his initials – he has patented more than twenty masks of all shapes, cellulose, fabric and even metal.
“The first to be used, it would be Dr. Wilder Penfield at the Montreal neurological Institute,” says his grandson.
Dr. Penfield was a neurosurgeon of renown who founded the Montreal neurological Institute. He is also the inventor of the “Procedure of the Montreal” to treat epilepsy.
In the early 1930s, Joseph Edouard LeDuc would have sold his patent in France and Germany, among others, to help combat an epidemic that was raging in Europe, according to Mr Leduc-Guerin.
A pioneer of the disposable masks
If the masks in cloth were already very common in the operation rooms in 1920 to avoid that droplets are found in the wounds of patients, the proposals of LeDuc were rather unusual and innovative for the time, believes Dr. Thomas Schlich Department social studies of medicine at McGill University, in Montreal.
It may well have been one of the first to offer masks and hard masks, disposable paper, adds the professor, even if others may have had the idea before him without the patent.
“What we can say is that it was one of the first examples of disposable masks, he was a pioneer,” he says. From what I can see, he was the first to patent this type of mask. “
Even if he managed to build a small fortune through his inventions, Joseph Edouard LeDuc was far from being motivated by money, on the contrary.
One of the two daughters of the inventor, Estelle, has had polio. Mr. LeDuc has spent all his fortune to pay for the treatments thereof. In the photo, she is in the company of his daughter, Linda.
“He became rich, but he spent all his fortune for treatments for his daughter, my aunt Estelle, who had contracted polio. He wanted it never loses the use of her legs, supporting his grandson. When she died, there was about 10 years old, she was walking again. He is my hero. “
Even if it was very little known about his grandfather, who died around age 70 of a heart attack, he remembers him as a generous person who never got angry.
“It was a wonderful grand-dad who encouraged creativity. After all, the mask is born of his sense of humor. The basic idea was far-fetched. He was a man of imagination “, is he recalls.
The former resident of Outremont loved to tinker, and it is this which has enabled him to put forward an invention that has saved many lives.
“Not only by the mask itself, but by everything that the mask was allowed to do as research, surgery, continues Mr. Leduc-Guerin. And this number continues to increase every day. “
Finally, in these difficult times, it is hoped that the story of his grand-father will encourage people in Quebec to wear the mask.