Water mattresses often remind us of something exotic, far away, a luxurious object that is part of a world that we only know through American films. Except for a few exceptions, it is not common to sleep on a waterbed, so the idea we have of it is a bit stereotyped and linked to some famous movie scene.
As we shall see, in reality, modern water beds have hardly any losses nor do they splash water like a balloon if they are punctured, not being under pressure and are not only widespread in the United States but also, to a lesser extent, in other parts of the world. But let’s go in order, and let’s start from the beginning.
The first water mattresses:
There are numerous testimonies of water mattresses in the past: the first is that of Neil Arnott, a Scottish physicist who in the early nineteenth century designed a rudimentary “hydrostatic” bed for invalids, built by placing a rubber sheet on a tub full of hot water, sealing the edges to prevent spillage.
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Arnott’s idea, which was later published in 1833 in the London Medical and Surgical Journal, was that by lying on the water the gravitational pressure was felt less, so the body would have been almost suspended and people forced to lie down permanently would have taken advantage of. Arnott had an intuition since after him the idea was taken up by others and even today mattresses are produced filled with water for orthopedic use.
Another testimony of waterbeds is found in an 1871 article in the New York Times, which describes the construction of a new church in Elmira, New York. The passage in which we talk about water beds is short but significant: we read that in the infirmary there will be one or two water beds for invalids who have too many pains and therefore cannot lie on other types of mattresses.