SCOPE AND CONTENT
Title: Oscar Wyss Oxygen Generator Files.,
Date (inclusive): 1950-1997
Collection number: MSS 0466
Extent: 0.40 linear feet (1 archives box and 1 shoe
Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD
Shelf Location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Oscar Wyss Oxygen Generator Files., MSS 0466. Mandeville Special Collections Library,
Documentation of Dr. Oscar Wyss's modification of a commercially available oxygen
generator to be used by climbers during the 1951 Swiss expedition to Mt. Everest.
Dr. Oscar Wyss was a Swiss physiologist associated with the Physiologisches Institut der
In 1950, Dr. Wyss modified an oxygen generator for use by the Swiss climbing team during
its 1951 Everest Expedition. Dr. Wyss's model was the oxygen generator manufactured by
Mine Safety Appliances of Pittsburgh, Penn., for use in coal mining.
A closed circuit system, the generator weighed less than five pounds and could be easily
carried on the abdomen of a climber. It used potassium dioxide to break down the water in
respiration into potassium hydroxide and oxygen, the latter to be inhaled by a climber
wearing the device. A climber could use the device to support breathing for up to
forty-five minutes independent of the air supply present in the environment. Opening the
circuit to include the local atmosphere could extend the life of the device even longer.
Wyss's modification was unsuccessful. The volume of moisture contained in exhaled air at
high altitude is considerably less than at sea level. Thus, the device's ability to
produce oxygen at high altitude was greatly diminished. Also, Wyss had designed the
device with a stiff, inflexible breathing tube, making it impossible to use the device
while actually climbing.
The failure of the device contributed significantly to the failure of the Swiss team to
reach the summit of Mt. Everest.
The collection was given to John B. West in 1998 by Dr. E. A. Koller of the
Physiologisches Institut der Universitat Zurich.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
A collection of documents pertaining to Dr. Oscar Wyss's modification of an oxygen
generator manufactured by Mine Safety Appliances in Pittsburgh, Penn. for use by climbers
during the 1951 Swiss Everest Expedition. The collection includes correspondence among
Dr. Wyss and members of the 1951 Swiss Everest Team, background literature about oxygen
generators, a brief report of the 1951 Swiss expedition, newsclippings about the 1951
Swiss expedition and the 1953 British expedition to Everest, and photographs of the