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July 4, 1925


JAMA. 1925;85(1):37-38. doi:10.1001/jama.1925.02670010041016

Two hundred and fifty years ago, John Mayow first showed that something necessary for life is taken from the air. It was a forecast of the oxygen requirement of the body, although to this older English physiologist the requisite air-borne substance was "spiritus nitroaereus." Lavoisier was the first, however, to understand the significance of oxygen from a truly chemical standpoint. Before the end of the eighteenth century, he realized that the respiratory exchange is the result of a process of combustion going on in the body, by which the carbon and hydrogen of the animal tissues are united with oxygen to form carbon dioxid and water. Through this conception of "vital oxidations," the importance of oxygen was given decided emphasis. A further great step in advance came with the demonstration that oxygen is not held in the blood merely dissolved in the plasma as nitrogen is, but becomes transported for