11 Lowell Road



11 Lowell Road


Philip Drinker (1894-1972) the co-inventor of the iron lung, was a professor of industrial hygiene at the Harvard School of Public Health. Son of a former president of Lehigh University, Drinker graduated from Lehigh in 1917 and began teaching at Harvard in 1921. In 1928, working with his brother Cecil (later dean of the Harvard School of Public Health) and fellow professor Louis Agassiz Shaw, he developed the artificial breathing machine and first used it on an eight-year old girl at Boston's Children's Hospital.

"Another chance soon came," according to a biography of Drinker in Science and Its Times, "when Barret Hoyt, a Harvard senior, was dying from polio because his lungs were paralyzed."

The student's physician [the account continued] begged Drinker to bring the machine to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. The big machine would not fit in a taxi, and they had no time to get a truck. They finally tied the iron lung to the top of the cab and made it to the hospital just before the patient arrived. Hoyt was barely breathing, but the machine forced air in and out of his lungs for four weeks. The "iron lung" never faltered and immediately became standard equipment to help people not only with polio, but with all types of respiratory failure, including gas poisoning and acute alcoholism. The iron lung became known as the "Drinker Respirator."

The device was credited with saving hundreds of lives and was particularly valuable prior to the introduction of the Salk vaccine for polio in 1955. In addition to his work on the iron lung, Drinker did pioneering work on occupational medicine, air pollution, and bioengineering. He died in 1972.

Susan Drinker (1899-1997) was born in Rhode Island and married Philip Drinker c1925. In the 1930 U.S. Census, the residents of the house were listed as: Phillip Drinker, 35, professor (education); Susan A. Drinker, 30; Susan G. Drinker, 2; and Mary E. Drinker, <1; plus two servants, Sadie F. McLeod, 44, nurse, born Canada, and Jeane Crowel, 28, cook, born Canada. The house was valued at $20,000.

Following the Drinkers at 11 Lowell Road was the family of Harold and Marie Coughlin, listed here in the Street List from 1935 to 1941. Harold Coughlin was a cotton salesman.

The next owners of this house, living here for nearly 60 years, were Helen and Aryeh "Dick" Friedman. Dick Friedman (1904-1999) was in the real estate business for many years and was town assessor for Brookline from 1965 to 1975.

Helen Loesar Friedman (1909-2002) was born in Buffalo and came to Boston to attend Simmons College, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in social work. A social worker for more than 40 years, she worked for several local agencies, including Boston Family Services, the Boston Association for Retarded Children, the New England Memorial Society, and the Florence Crittenton Hastings House.

The Friedmans had four children. Their son Dick, who followed his father into the real estate business, is the developer of the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, the Marriott Courtyard in Coolidge Corner, and other properties.

Photo courtesy of Children's Hospital, Boston