Brief History of Biomedical Fluid Mechanics

People have written about circulation for thousands of years. I include here a short history of biomedical fluid mechanics, because I believe it is important to recognize that in all of science and engineering we "stand on the shoulders of giants."1

The Yellow Emperor, Huang Ti, lived in China between 475 and 221 B.C. and he wrote one of the first works dealing with circulation. Huang Ti wrote "Internal Classics," in which fundamental theories of Chinese medicine were addressed. Among other topics, Huang Ti wrote about the Yin Yang doctrine and the theory of circulation.

Hippocrates (Fig. 1.1) lived in Greece in 400 B.C., is considered by many to be the father of science-based medicine, and was the first to separate medicine from magic. Hippocrates declared that the human body was integral with nature and was something that should be understood. He founded a medical school on the island of Cos, Greece, and developed the Oath of Medical Ethics. Hippocrates lived until 377 B.C.

Aristotle lived in Greece between 384 and 322 B.C. He wrote that the heart was the focus of the blood vessels, but did not make a distinction between arteries and veins.

1aIf I have seen further (than others) it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." This quote was written by Isaac Newton in a letter to Robert Hooke, 1675.

Figure 1.1 Hippocrates. (Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine Images from the History of Medicine B029254)

Praxagoras of Cos was a Greek physician and a contemporary of Aristotle. Praxagoras was apparently the first Greek physician to recognize the difference between arteries (carriers of air, he thought) and veins (carriers of blood), and to comment on the pulse.

William Harvey (Fig. 1.2) was born in Folkstone, England, in 1578. He earned a BA degree from Cambridge in 1597 and went on to study medicine in Padua, Italy, where he received his doctorate in 1602. Harvey returned to England to open a medical practice. He married Elizabeth Brown, daughter of the court physician to Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Harvey eventually became court physician to King James I and King Charles I.

In 1628, Harvey published "An anatomical study of the motion of the heart and of the blood of animals." This was the first publication that claimed that blood is pumped from the heart and recirculated. Up to that point, the common theory of the day was that food was converted to

Figure 1.2 William Harvey. (Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine Images from the History of Medicine B014191)

blood in the liver and then consumed as fuel. To prove that blood was recirculated and not consumed, Harvey showed, by calculation, that blood pumped from the heart in only a few minutes exceeded the total volume of blood contained in the body.

Jean Louis Marie Poiseuille was a French physician and physiologist born in 1797. Poiseuille studied physics and math in Paris. Later he became interested in the flow of human blood in narrow tubes and in 1838, he experimentally derived and later published Poiseuille's law. Poiseuille's law describes the relationship between flow and pressure-gradient in long tubes with constant cross-section. Poiseuille died in Paris in 1869.

Otto Frank was born in Germany in 1865 and he died in 1944. He was educated in Munich, Kiel, Heidelberg, Glasgow, and Strasburg. In 1890 Frank published, "Fundamental form of the arterial pulse," which contained his "Windkessel Theory," of circulation. He became a physician in 1892 in Leipzig and became a professor in Munich in 1895. Frank perfected optical manometers and capsules for the precise measurement of intracardiac pressures and volumes.

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