Top Reasons why Chainsaws were Originally Invented

 – Why Were Chainsaws Invented – 

At every mention 0f Chainsaw, what comes to mind would most likely be wood cutting. Chainsaws today, are used for cutting woods, such that you may never know why it was originally invented. 

Why Were Chainsaws Invented

Are you’re interested in finding out why chainsaws were invented, and if it was originally made for wood cutting? Then, you’ll have to read down the post, to discover the shocking truth about it.

What are Chainsaws?

A chainsaw is a portable gasoline-, electric-, or battery-powered saw that cuts with a set of teeth. It is used in activities such as tree felling, limbing, bucking, pruning, harvesting firewood, etc.

A chainsaw is a lightweight, hand-held mechanical saw mostly used for cutting timber. Either felling trees or cutting logs to lengths that can then be split with a splitting ax for firewood.


Why Were Chainsaws Originally Invented? 

Chainsaws were actually invented for bringing babies safely, yes safely, into the world. Before the common use of the C-section, all babies had to be passed through the birth canal.

However, as we know, babies can become obstructed in there if they are breech or too large.

When babies couldn’t fit through or they would get stuck in the pelvis, they removed parts of bone and cartilage to create more space for the baby. Hand originally performed the procedure, known as “symphysiotomy using a small knife and saw to remove the bone.

And to make things worse, this was all done without anesthesia to a woman in the middle of giving birth. It took a long time, and it was messy and obviously painful.

However, in the 1780s, in a bid to make the removal of the pelvic bone easier and less time-consuming two doctors named John Aitken and James Jeffray invented the chainsaw.

What did the Chainsaw Look Like?

You don’t have to bother about the size of chainsaws as of today, the original was much smaller. It looked like a modern-day kitchen knife with little teeth on a chain that wound in an oval.

Why Were Chainsaws Invented

The tool was a success, and it continued to be used for most of the 19th century. It was even used for other bone-cutting operations and amputations during surgery until medical advances saw it phased out.

Later, it evolved into a wood chopping tool when people realized how quickly and easily it was to cut anything. It became larger and more powerful and eventually grew to be the brutal device we know today.

This chainsaw was also used for other medical procedures such as

Who Invented the Chainsaw?

The scary-looking child birthing tool was actually invented in Scotland, by doctors John Aitken and James Jeffray. They credit the two Scottish surgeons with inventing the chainsaw in the 1780s.

John Aitken became a surgeon in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and a  university medical lecturer. He is known to have made a few practical improvements within surgery, including devising the chainsaw.

Dr. Jeffray studied at both Glasgow and Edinburgh University and was known for dissecting the bodies of people executed for murder.

Jeffray held the twin-chairs of Anatomy and Botany at Glasgow University from 1790 and Vice-Rector of the university in 1800. He is buried on the northern slope of Glasgow Necropolis.

What was a Symphysiotomy?

The doctors’ chainsaw was used during symphysiotomies. This was a procedure carried out on pregnant women during birth, instead of the modern-day caesarian section.

A symphysiotomy involves slicing through the cartilage and ligaments of a pelvic joint to widen it and allow a baby to be delivered without obstruction. For women, there were high risks of infection, pain, bladder injury, and even long-term walking difficulty.

The procedure was common in treating obstructed labor from 1597 but became less frequent in the late 20th century after the risk of maternal death from a caesarian section decreased due to improvements in techniques and hygiene.

Symphysiotomies are no longer performed but sometimes in “Third-World” countries where an operating room for a caesarian section is unavailable.

However, many who went through the procedure defined it as, ‘a butchering’. The practice which left them unable to walk after childbirth, and with other lifelong consequences brutalized many women.

Problems that Made Chainsaws Intervention in Childbirth Useful:

  • Breech birth–this is when the baby is coming out feet first
  • Shoulders stuck–a dangerous position for both mom and baby
  • The baby’s head failing to transition through the birth canal–can happen for various reasons


The procedure was originally done without anesthesia and could include the breaking of bones. With the introduction of anesthesia, the procedure was used more frequently.

Thankfully, Cesarean section is what is used today in place of a chainsaw in childbirth.

Instead of attempting to widen the pelvis, a comparatively smaller/less intrusive abdominal incision is made to retrieve the baby.

When Did They Stop Using Chainsaws For Childbirth?

The use of a medical chainsaw in childbirth continued in the West into the late 1800s, though it was improved upon since the 1700s.

It is said to still sometimes be used in parts of the world today when a cesarean is not possible, though the Gigli saw mostly overtook the use of the original medical chainsaws.

Both the chainsaw and the Gigli saw were also used for amputating limbs, along with deceased flesh and bones, but the original purpose was to help out women having trouble delivering their babies.


FAQs about Why Chainsaws Were Invented

Why Were Chainsaws Invented? 

Before Cesarean sections, if a baby was too large to pass through the birth canal, parts of the pelvis would be removed.

At first, the procedure was performed with a small knife which was very messy and painful. 

In 1780, two doctors invented the chainsaw to make the removal both easier and less time-consuming. 

Are Chainsaws Still Used today for Childbirth?

Cesarean section is what is used today in place of a chainsaw in childbirth.

Because many who went through the procedure defined it as being butchering. The practice which left them unable to walk after childbirth, and with other lifelong consequences brutalized many women.

Where Childbirth Chainsaws as Big as Modern-day Chainsaws?

No. In fact, the original was much smaller. It looked like a modern-day kitchen knife with little teeth on a chain that wound in an oval.

Chainsaw for woodcutting

We hope that this article was helpful and informative enough. If it was, please do well to leave a comment. And, maybe you should share this knowledge with people to help them discover this truth. 

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