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Ben Franklin made a silver coil catheter for his brother in 1752.

Before Foley, Frenchmen Malecot and de Pezzar laid the groundwork with their "four-winged" and "mushroom" models. Before them (1853), Jean Reybard inflated a bladder bag to create the "grandfather" of retained devices.

Catheterization was deemed safe and acceptable, largely because of the antiseptic principles advocated in 1867 by Glasgow's Joseph Lister. While skeptics, including some urologists, scoffed at swabbing surfaces prior to procedures, today urologists insist on absolute disinfection to prevent microorganisms from infecting the urinary tract.

Well into the early 1900s, chronic sufferers from bladder outlet obstruction self-catheterized—like Franklin's brother—with concealed catheters they carried on them in hatbands, canes or umbrellas.

But would Listerian procedures be crucial in treating patients with permanent abnormal bladder function? Post-World War II urologists faced that question on a grand scale as ex-soldiers with unprecedented spinal cord injuries returned home as a new catheter population. These paralyzed patients needed more than

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