The Bends: Compressed Air in the History of Science, Diving, and Engineering

Front Cover
Yale University Press, 1998 - Science - 256 pages
With the invention of compressed air in the 1840s, human divers could enter previously inaccessible deep water environments and engineers could design underwater mines and monumental bridges that had never been possible before. But a painful, sometimes fatal illness--decompression sickness, or the bends--mysteriously afflicted many of those who used compressed air. This book is a wide-ranging history of the wonders compressed air brought about and the suffering its unknown hazards inflicted. John L. Phillips explores the intertwining roles of science, technology, engineering, medicine, and politics in the invention of compressed air, the recognition and identification of decompression sickness, and the hundred-year-long process of learning to understand and treat the bends.

The book begins with an overview of the biology and chemistry of respiration and a discussion of the steam engine that could generate compressed air. Drawing on previously unpublished letters, diaries, and notes, Phillips tells the story of early uses of compressed air, first observations of decompression sickness, growing awareness of the bends during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and efforts to understand the pathophysiology of the illness. He then considers employee health and safety issues, the science of diving today, and human limits to exploring the ocean deeps. In the history of compressed air and its illnesses, Phillips finds important lessons for dealing with other diseases yet to be confronted in the modern world.

 

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User Review  - neurodrew - LibraryThing

Today, we think it obvious that new industrial technology threatens workers and demand full investigations after any occupational injury. Dr. Phillips recounts the nearly fifty years and many hundreds ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
The Discovery of the Atmosphere
7
The Sea of Air Around Us
15
The Pneumatic Revolution
29
Trigers Caisson
47
James B Eads and the St Louis Bridge
60
The Roeblings and the Brooklyn Bridge
78
Tunneling Underground and Underwater
95
Decompression Sickness and the Government
135
TwentiethCentury
160
The UltraDeep Ocean
189
Air as Medicine
197
High Altitudes and Decompression Sickness
204
Notes
219
Bibliography
239
Index
251

Paul Bert and the Cause of Decompression Sickness
110
John Scott Haldane and Staged Decompression
121

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About the author (1998)

John L. Phillips, M.D., is a fellow in urologic oncology at the National Cancer Institute, NIH.

Bibliographic information