In 1952, Copenhagen was confronted with a poliomyelitis epidemic that involved the respiratory musculature in large numbers of patients. The anaesthetist B. Ibsen, who established carbon dioxide intoxication due to severe hypoventilation as the cause of death, proposed that the patients be treated by tracheostomy and positive pressure respiration in order to achieve better ventilation than with an iron lung. In the Netherlands, it was decided to organise the control ofthe epidemics on a nationwide basis. Various hospitals were asked to set up artificial respiration centres. In addition, the Beatrix Fund was set up in order to collect money for combating poliomyelitis. The epidemic reached the Netherlands in 1956. In Groningen University Medical Centre, 74 patients were admitted, of whom 36 had to be ventilated. In two cases, the mechanical ventilation could not be stopped and one of these was ultimately discharged home with chronic ventilation in 1960, thus becoming the first patient in the Netherlands to be given mechanical ventilation at home. The mechanical ventilation centres developed into the intensive care units as we know them today. Most of the forms of treatment now in use are based on the techniques thought up and elaborated by the pioneers working in the mechanical ventilation centres. The latest development in this series is the development of centres for home mechanical ventilation.