Why Were Chainsaws Invented? The Shocking Truth & History

Written By Colleen Brondou
Last updated: August 31, 2023

You may associate chainsaws with horror movies or woodcutting, but what was their intended use? Believe it or not, the chainsaw's invention in the late 18th century has a surprising connection to childbirth.

This article will unveil how these tools migrated from medical rooms into our backyards and forests. Are you ready for some fantastic history?

Key Takeaways

  • Chainsaws were first made in the late 18th century. Scottish doctors named them.
  • They did not create chainsaws for wood cutting but to make a hard childbirth surgery safer.
  • The surgery was called symphysiotomy. It expanded the birth canal of pregnant ladies.
  • After being used in medicine, people then learned how useful chainsaws are for cutting down trees and slicing logs.

Why Were Chainsaws Invented?

Chainsaws came to life in the late 18th century. Scottish doctors John Aitken and James Jeffray created them. Chainsaws had a very different use at first. They were used for a surgical procedure called symphysiotomy.

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Symphysiotomy was done on women giving birth. It made the birth canal wider. This surgery was harsh but needed during that period. Chainsaws helped make it safer and more efficient.

A man named Bernard Heine built something like a chainsaw later on in the 1830s, which he called chain osteotome. Doctors started using it instead of older tools like Gigli wire saws.

Then, in 1883, another significant change took place! The modern chainsaw we know today emerged and honed its skills even more! Chainsaws had many uses over time, but they all began with an important job: saving lives in medicine.

Related: Why Were Teddy Bears Invented

The Original Uses of Chainsaws

Contrary to popular belief, chainsaws weren't invented for logging. Instead, their inception can be traced to two Scottish doctors, John Aitken, and James Jeffray. These medical practitioners developed early prototypes of chainsaws as new surgical tools in the late 18th century.

The serrated cutting edge was ideal for symphysiotomy procedures, wherein bones or cartilage were cut during childbirth to ease complications. Nonetheless, with advancements in technology and obstetric care practices over time, this practice became obsolete and culturally unacceptable by the mid-20th century due to its associated risks on women's health.

Early prototypes by Scottish doctors John Aitken and James Jeffray

Scottish doctors John Aitken and James Jeffray made the first chainsaw. They wanted a tool to do better surgery in late 18th-century Scotland. It was not for cutting wood then but for an operation on women during childbirth.

The operation was called symphysiotomy. The chainsaw helped cut through bone to widen the birth canal of pregnant ladies safely and quickly. This chainsaw saved lives when safer birth tools were not there yet.

Medical applications

The scary surgery was done on women giving birth. The goal of this work was to make the birth canal bigger. Chainsaws were favored over other surgical tools like Gigli wire saws because they worked better and faster.

Thus, even though gruesome, these very early chainsaws saved many lives when safe cesarean procedures were not standard.

In later years, Bernard Heine added more changes to the original tool design by inventing what is known as an osteotome - another model of a medical chainsaw that cut bone with ease! So doctors kept using chainsaws as handy helpers in medicine until safer options came along much later on.

When did they stop using chainsaws for Childbirth?

Chainsaws for cutting bone in childbirth lasted until the late 19th century. Doctors used them less as time went on. The reason was simple: safer and better ways to help women give birth came out.

Around the same time, C-sections became safer. More doctors started using this method instead of chainsaws. This cut down a lot on pain and danger for moms-to-be.

When Was The Chainsaw Invented?

The chainsaw came to life in the late 18th century. Scottish doctors John Aitken and James Jeffray are to thank for this tool. They didn't make it for wood cutting, rather they made it as a medical device.

Once again, time moved on and brought further changes to the chainsaw story. The year was 1883 when people saw what we call the modern chainsaw today with even more uses than before!

Development of Chainsaws for Logging

Chainsaws moved from the medical field to the logging industry. Loggers saw a use for them in their work. At first, chainsaws were great for cutting through bones during surgery. Then people found out they could cut wood just as well.

The year 1883 marked a big step for chainsaws. In this year, developers made it into what we know today - a tool mainly used for chopping down trees and slicing logs into smaller bits.

As years passed, changes made chainsaw safer and easier to use too! Saving time but also protecting users was important.

Can a chainsaw cut through bone?

Yes, a Chainsaw can cut through bone as it's solid and cuts things swiftly. But it would be best if you only used it safely and as told by the rules.

Common FAQs About Chainsaws

Who invented the chainsaw?

German orthopedist Bernard Heine invented the chainsaw and created the first prototype in 1830.

What was the initial purpose of chainsaws?

Chainsaws were originally intended for medical use, specifically for cutting bone during surgery and assisting in childbirth procedures.

How did chainsaws evolve to support the logging industry?

Adaptations to engine size and blade design allowed for larger trees to be cut more efficiently, prompting a transition from medical use to logging and forestry applications.

When did gas-powered engines contribute to chainsaw development?

The introduction of gas-powered engines in the early 20th century allowed for increased power and effectiveness, revolutionizing the logging industry.

What are some common safety features of modern chainsaws?

Modern safety features include chain brakes that stop blade movement upon kickback, anti-vibration systems to reduce strain on users, and ergonomic designs for better control and stability.

Charles Eames

Colleen joined findingDulcinea in April 2007. Her 15 years of copywriting experience includes writing for a start-up robotics company, an online gourmet foods importer, an engineering firm and a law firm. She also spent four years as a Direct Online Marketing Manager for John Wiley & Sons, producing and managing all e-mail and online promotions for seven product lines. In 2005, she taught English to children and adults in Mexico, and practiced her Spanglish in Guatemala and Cuba. Colleen has a B.A. in Languages and Literature from Bard College. To learn more about Colleen read her blog, Cha Cha Chow or follow Colleen on Twitter.

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