What Is CPR? - Definition, History & Purpose

Instructor: Jennafer Tomlinson
This lesson will provide you with information regarding a fascinating lifesaving technique called CPR that is used to revive an individual from death. Learn the definition of CPR and explore its history and purpose.

Definition of CPR

Have you ever seen an emergency situation, whether on television or in real life, and wondered what exactly the rescuers were doing to save that person? This lesson will provide you with information regarding the lifesaving technique called CPR that can be performed by anybody with the proper training.

The letters CPR are an abbreviation for the medical term cardiopulmonary resuscitation. To better understand what this terminology means, let us first break down each part of the word. The first part of the word, 'cardio,' means 'heart.' The second part of the word, 'pulmonary,' means 'lungs.' The word 'resuscitation' means to 'revive,' or to 'bring back from death.' So, in short, CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, means to revive the non-beating heart and/or the non-breathing lungs of an individual.

History of CPR

CPR first made its appearance in the mid 1700s when a science academy in Paris described the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation method for drowning emergencies. Since then, CPR has expanded into a worldwide lifesaving technique that is taught to rescue and hospital workers, individuals within cooperate offices and people within the community. The addition of chest compressions, placing one hand on top of the other in the proximity of the heart and pressing down a certain number of times, was added to the resuscitation of individuals in the early 1900s to keep blood (and oxygen within the blood) moving throughout the victim's body. In 1956, James Elam and Peter Safar were the first to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. By 1960, the technique known as CPR was developed.

Hands Over Heart Performing Chest Compressions
Chest Compressions

Since the very first use of CPR, there have been many changes to the instructions and training methods on how to deliver mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions. Most of these changes stem from the research completed by the American Heart Association, a well-known cardiopulmonary resuscitation training organization.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account