If you've ever taken a CPR class, you're probably familiar with the limbless dummy used for practicing chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Often called "Resusci Anne" or "CPR Annie," these dolls are valuable tools for learning an important life-saving procedure. But what you may not know is that while you practiced your rescue breathing, you were kissing the face of a particularly famous corpse.
Back in the 1880s, the body of a young woman was pulled from the Seine River in Paris, France. The cause of her death was assumed to be suicide, since she no signs of violence, but nobody ever came to identify the body. She was a strikingly beautiful corpse with a mysterious yet peaceful smile, and the morgue attendant was so moved that he took a plaster cast of her face to preserve her beauty in a death mask. Death masks were a popular method of memorializing the dead in the Victorian era. The cast quickly gained fame as the most beautiful death mask in the world, and woman became known as L’Inconnue de la Seine
, or "The Unknown Woman of the Seine." She became a beauty icon of sorts and inspired several works of art and literature. Almost seven decades after her death, her face would be put to a far more practical use.
The modern method of CPR, which combines chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, was developed by Dr. Peter Safar in the mid-1950s. He hoped that the average layperson could learn this technique so that more lives could be saved if professional responders took too long to arrive. In order to train people, though, he would need a realistic life-sized doll. That's when he approached the Norwegian toymaker Asmund Laerdal. Laerdal took up the challenge and decided to model the doll's face off of L’Inconnue de la Seine
. The first such "Resusci Anne" was built in 1960, and you can still order them from the company Laerdal Medical today.
Written By: TheGothicLibrarian