The Story of Resusci Anne and the beginnings of Modern CPR

"Annie, Annie, are you OK?

Can you hear me, Annie?"

A young girl is lying unconscious on the floor. A number of people look on nervously and take it in turns to attempt rescuing her by practising mouth-to-mouth and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This is not an isolated case. Similar rescue attempts are happening all over the world and the victims are all called Annie. Of course the unconscious girl is not a real person. She is Resusci Anne - the world's most famous life-sized doll and fondly dubbed the most kissed woman in the world!

The story of Resusci Anne is inextricably linked to the birth of resuscitation and her legacy continues to inspire the Laerdal company mission - 'helping save lives'. In the wake of her success, modern day simulation training for today's healthcare professionals owes much to this iconic manikin. While it is estimated that 300 million people worldwide have been trained in CPR on Resusci Anne, thousands of healthcare specialists have acquired many of their clinical skills through her successors: SimMan, Nursing Anne, SimMom, SimBaby and SimNewB, to name but a few.


Early origins of Annie

The company's founder, Asmund Laerdal, began his first business venture in 1940 with the commissioning and publishing of children's books, and manufacturing wooden toys. A successful business, his attention quickly turned to new opportunities which, following a trip to the States in 1949, he found in the emergence of soft plastics.

A new material that was closely guarded at the time, Laerdal managed to bring samples home and started experimenting by baking moulds in his wife's oven. His persistence in mastering the new material eventually resulted in 'the doll sensation of the century'.  A year later, children in post-war, toy-starved Europe encountered Anne.

Post-War Annie




First steps into the Medical World

Constantly looking for ways to diversify and apply his new knowledge of soft plastics, he took his first step into the medical world and began making imitation wounds for the Norwegian Civil Defence. Around this time, a number of separate but rather fortuitous meetings took place, which would influence the course of resuscitation to where it is today.

 Early Annie Dolls


Work begins on Resusci Anne

Dr. Per Stromback, chief Physician of the Swedish Red Cross met with Laerdal and told him about the recent research studies conducted in the US by Chiefs of Anesthesiology, Dr. Peter Safar and Dr. James Elam, which confirmed that life-saving resuscitation could be performed with expired air by mouth-to-mouth ventilations. The problem that lay in its application was how to train people in this skill when the situation only arose as an emergency - not a time for practical training!

In 1958, Dr. Peter Safar presented his findings at a conference of Scandinavian Anaesthesiologists in Gausdal, Norway, also attended by the Norwegian Bjorn Lind from the Stavanger Hospital (Laerdal's home town). Aware of the difficulties of training this mouth-to-mouth skill, it struck Lind that Asmund Laerdal's experience might be able to assist the making of a manikin. The introduction was made and the work began.

A meeting of minds and a life-long friendship, 

Asmund Laerdal, Dr. Peter Safar and Dr. Bjorn Lind


The challenge of the task

The task at hand was extrememely complicated. The manikin had to resemble a realistic, unconscious person, have airways that could be obstructed and cleared, a head that could be turned, a chest that could move with inflation, and be easy to transport. Additionally it was important that many people should be able to practise in quick succession, without fear of contamination.

Almost two years went into the development of the manikin engaging both Lind and Laerdal in almost daily contact. Work progressed but the creation of the face has it's own story.

L'Inconnue: The Mona Lisa of the Seine

Inspiration for the face came to Laerdal during a visit to his father-in-law's home, where on a wall hung a death mask reputed to be the face of an unidentified young woman found drowned in the River Seine, Paris in the mid 19th Century. At her death, all that is known is that there was no evidence of violence on her and it was assumed that she had drowned herself; such was the assumption by the morgue where her body was laid out.

A white plaster cast of the unknown woman first appeared in modellers' shops in Paris at the end of the 19th Century. Her flawless features and enigmatic smile drew an ardent fascination from both artists and writers alike.

    L' Inconnue de la Seine


th Mask

Theatre production inspired by

 L'Inconnue de la Seine

From their studios and studies, copies soon found their way onto the walls in the living rooms of Paris's bourgeoisie. In 1926, a catalogue of death masks would finally give her a name - L' Inconnue de la Seine (The Unknown Woman of the Seine).

Novels, poems and short stories followed inventing a variety of different lives for her as well as tragic deaths, but in choosing her mask, Laerdal turned Resusci Anne into a memorial of the unknown lady of the Seine. Whatever the circumstances of her death, she is now famous for saving lives.


Resusci Anne is presented to the Medical Community

In 1960, Resusci Anne went to New York and was presented to Peter Safar, the American Red Cross and another pioneer of resuscitation, Dr. Archer Gordon. Both specialists were impressed by the product and plans were made to conduct a symposium on resuscitation in Norway. Facilitated in his hometown of Stavanger in 1961, this international meeting would come to be recognised as a turning point in the field of resuscitation.

Now firmly involved in the resuscitation debate, Laerdal recognised the significance of findings that were to quickly follow the Stavanger symposium. In the US, Dr. James Jude, Dr. Guy Knickerbocker and Dr. Wiliam Kouwenhoven discovered that external chest compressions could provide circulation of blood to the brain when the heart stopped beating, and increase greatly the possibility of revival. He applied his efforts to the making of a complete Resusci Anne for use to practise artificial ventilation and external chest compressions. The result was closely akin to the Resusci Anne we are all familiar with today.

"Each day, thousands of people die of heart failure, people whose hearts were sufficiently good to recover after clinical death, had they been given correct and quick treatment."
Asmund Laerdal (1969) - Founder of Laerdal Medical

Asmund Laerdal with Resusci Anne


Since the launch of Resusci Anne in 1960, the Resusci Anne range has expanded and technically evolved to meet the needs of the healthcare professional and lay responder, but her mission remains the same - Helping save lives.


You can view the current Resusci Anne range by clicking on the links below:
Resusci Anne with QCPR   Resusci Anne CPRD   Resusci Anne First Aid   Resusci Anne Advanced SkillTrainer with SimPad   Resusci Anne Simulator with SimPad