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George Poe, Jr.

Magnolia Cemetery
Location: Confederate Square
(May 8, 1846 – February 3rd, 1913)

 George Poe Jr.  photo  George Poe Jr.  photo

George Poe, Jr. was born on May 8, 1846 to George Poe, Sr. and Elizabeth Ross Ellicot in Elkridge Landing, Maryland. He was a cousin of the famous author Edgar Allen Poe. He attended the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. After the war, he worked as government scientist and founded the Poe Chemical Works in Trenton, New Jersey. This facility housed the nation’s first nitrous oxide production plant, and by 1883, was supplying this “laughing gas” to over 5,000 dentists. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize for achievement in chemistry, but did not win the award.

In addition to being a pioneer in the chemical business, Poe was also a prominent inventor in the field of artificial respiration.  After seeing a relative who had been pronounced dead suddenly revive just hours prior to burial, he was inspired to create a device to resuscitate people suffering from a lethal deprivation of oxygen due to drowning or gas inhalation. Over the course of thirty years, he experimented on rats and rabbits using oxygen cylinders and tubing. He would first asphyxiate the animals and then attempt to use the apparatus he created to bring them back to life. The machine that he eventually perfected used a pump to draw out any poisoned air from the victims lungs and pump in fresh air.

Poe performed much of his work on this device while suffering from a debilitating state of partial blindness and paralysis. Around 1900, he accepted his physician’s advice to retire and relocate to the country. He moved to the Norfolk County farm of a friend, Abraham Ostrander. Ostrander’s young son Arthur provided invaluable assistance to Poe by acting as his eyes and ears. Arthur helped him to refine his invention and along with two Norfolk doctors, accompanied Ostrander on a national tour to promote the device. His illness brought these efforts to an end, and he succumbed in 1914 at the age of 67. He is interred at Magnolia Cemetery, within the Confederate Square.


Photo: Wikipedia

Cousin of Famous Poet and Noted as a Scientist. INVENTOR OF THE RESPIRATOR Also First to Liquefy Nitrus Oxide -- Cadet at Virginia Military Institute at Time of Battle of Newmarket -- Mentioned for the Nobel Prize for Scientific Attainment in Chemistry The Washington Post (1877-1922) - Washington, D.C. Feb 3, 1914

Smother Small Dog To See it Revived. Successful Demonstration of an Artificial Respiration Machine Cheered in Brooklyn. Women in the Audience, But Most of Those Present Were Physicians. The Dog, Gathered in from the Street, Wagged Its Tail.". New York Times. May 29, 1908

“Pumps in New Life". The Frederick News-Post. April 25, 1907

Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries.

Visitor Information

Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Office hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Free parking inside cemetery.

Admission Cost: Free

Address: Lancaster Street & Berkley Avenue, Norfolk, VA 23523

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