October 8, 1997

Respiratory Physiology: People and Ideas

Author Affiliations

Northwestern University Medical School Chicago, Ill


edited by John B. West, 431 pp, with illus, $85, ISBN 0-19-508081-5, New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 1996.

JAMA. 1997;278(14):1200. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550140094051

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The neophyte, at the onset of a lengthy training program in science and, more specifically, respiratory physiology, begins with attempts to grasp basic concepts—blood gas transport, liquid and solute exchange, the mechanical properties of the lung and the role of surface tension, pulmonary chemoreceptors and reflexes—to name just a few. There is little time and, usually, scant interest in how the concepts evolved or the personalities and circumstances of those responsible for the complex topics one is struggling to master.

Although I am neither a novice nor an expert on education, it seems clear that one can acquire an understanding of current concepts a bit faster, and with considerably less pain, with a historical perspective in addition to the latest download. Therein is the true worth of this interesting book. As the title says, it presents the ideas of noteworthy individuals and the use of those ideas by others