Friday, September 14, 2012

Benedek and Villars, Volume 1

One early textbook that served as a precursor to Introductory Physics for Medicine and Biology is the 3-volume Physics With Illustrative Examples From Medicine and Biology, by George Benedek and Felix Villars. The first edition, published in 1973, was just bound photocopies of a typewritten manuscript, but a nicely printed second edition appeared in 2000. The preface to Volume 1 of the first edition states
“This is a unique book. It is an introductory textbook of physics in which the development of the principles of physics is interwoven with the quantitative analysis of a wide range of biological and medical phenomena. Conversely, the biological and medical examples serve to vitalize and motivate the learning of physics. By its very nature, this book not only teaches physics, but also exposes the student to topics in fields such as anatomy, orthodedic medicine, physiology, and the principles of hemostatic control.

This book, and its follow-up, Volumes II and III, grew out of an introductory physics course which we have offered to freshmen and sophomores at MIT since 1970. The stimulus for this course came from Professor Irving M. London, MD, Director of the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. He convinced us that continued advances in the biological and medical sciences demand that students, researchers, and physicians should be capable of applying the quantitative methods of the physical sciences to problems in the life sciences. We have written this book in the hope that students of the life sciences will come to appreciate the value of training in physics in helping them to formulate, analyze, and solve problems in their own fields.”
This quote applies almost without change (except for replacing MIT with Russ Hobbie’s University of Minnesota) to Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology. Clearly the goals and objectives of the two works are the same.

Many of the topics in Volume 1 of Benedek and Villars are similar to those found in Chapters 1 and 10 of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology: biomechanics, fluid dynamics, and feedback. Particularly interesting to me are the topics that Russ Hobbie and I don’t discuss, such as the physiological effects of underwater diving.
“On ascent and descent the diver must arrange to have the pressure of gas in his lungs be the same as that of the surrounding water. He can do this either by breathing out on ascent or by adjusting the output pressure of his compressed air tanks. Second to drowning, the most serious underwater diving accident is produced by taking a full breath of air at depth, and holding this breath as the diver rises to the surface quickly. For example, if the diver did this at 99 ft he would have gas at 4 atm in his lungs. This if fine at 99 ft, but if he holds this total volume of gas on ascending, then at the surface the surrounding water is at 1 atm, and his lungs are holding air at 3 atm. This can do two things. His lungs can rupture, thereby allowing gas to flow into the space between lungs and ribs. This is called pneumothorax. Also the great pressure of air in the lungs can force air bubbles into the blood stream. These air embolisms can then occlude blood vessels in the brain or the coronary circulation, and this can lead to death. Of course, the obvious necessity of balancing pressure in the ears, sinuses, and intestines must be realized.”
Benedek and Villars also have a delightful description of the physiological effects of low air pressure experienced by balloonists. It is too long to reproduce here, but well worth reading.

In the coming weeks, I will discuss Benedek and Villars’ second and third volumes.

No comments:

Post a Comment