You probably thought the chainsaw was developed to cut down trees, which makes total sense. But that's not how it came about. Before the cesarian section was refined enough for both a mother and baby to survive the procedure, drastic action was sometimes required to deliver a child stuck in the birth canal.
In the 18th century, two Scottish surgeons named John Aitken and James Jeffray devised a solution they could employ when faced with difficult childbirths. Rather than use a knife to widen the pelvic area by slicing through cartilage and bone to extricate a stuck baby, the two developed a chainsaw to make cutting easier.
While this sounds ghastly, the doctors were actually trying to lessen the agony endured by women who needed their pelvic bone separated. The knife took a long time, while their device—a modified knife with serrated “teeth” on a chain—could cut through bone and tissue more quickly.
This disturbing practice died out when medical advances allowed doctors to remove a child while avoiding bones altogether. But the chainsaw was still a useful gadget. In the 20th century, chainsaws were adapted for work that seems more familiar to us, like cutting trees. Read the rest of the story at Mental Floss.
(Image credit: Sabine Salfer)