During the pre-recorded historical period of modern (defined as mid-20th century and later) biomechanics, a few leading, clear thinkers asked of themselves, how do we create a discipline; in particular, the discipline of biomechanics? There had been brilliant and intrepid engineers, mechanists and scientists making isolated, often minute, contributions to science, beginning with Galileo. In more recent time, Y.C. Fung in his 1981 monograph on Biomechanics: Mechanical Properties of Living Tissues, Springer Verlag, attributes to Hermann von Helmholtz the title “father of bioengineering”. During the mid-20th century, circa 1955, some ingenious and creative engineers (fluid dynamists, aeronautical, chemical, civil, and mechanical engineers, etc.) and applied mathematicians turned their attention to detailed studies of biologically and physiologically motivated problems. (These problems often addressed classical conundrums in physiology.) These individuals were scattered around the globe, particularly in the U.K. (eg, Cambridge University, Imperial College, Oxford University, University of Leeds, Strathclyde University) and the U.S. (eg, Columbia University, MIT, Stanford, University of Washington, UCSD, Wayne State) to name a few. While these contributions were very important and excellent, they were largely isolated, and at best sporadic, and academic curiosities.
At Cambridge, Sir G.I. Taylor in the late 1950s began work on a propulsion mechanism for sperms swimming through a viscous fluid, and Sir M.J. Lighthill began studies on the mechanisms for birds flying, fishes swimming and other forms of aquatic animal propulsion. In the mid-1960s, at Imperial College London, M.A.R. Freeman led a team of engineers and surgeons to study the structure-function of tissues such as the articular cartilage of diarthrodial joints and intervertebral discs of mammalian spines, and at Oxford, during the same time period, J. Goodfellow, an orthopaedic surgeon, led a team of engineers to develop total hip and knee replacements. At the University Leeds, V. Wright, a rheumatologist, and D. Dowson, an engineer, led a group to study biotribology (friction, lubrication and wear of joints) and the etiology of osteoarthritis. The most successful orthopaedic surgery research was developed by Sir J. Charney’s team of surgeons and engineers at the Wrightington Hospital’s Centre for Hip Surgery, who developed a PMMA cementing technique for fixation of the femoral and acetabulum components into arthritic hips. This led to a revolution in orthopaedic total joint replacements for many patients suffering advanced stages of osteoarthritis, and opened this vast clinical areas for orthopaedic joint replacements, knees, shoulders, etc. This led to the huge influx of bioengineers into the field of orthopaedic research, not only in U.K. but also around the world. At Strathclyde J.P. Paul was instrumental in advancing methods to analyze human gait studies. Most of these advances occurred during the decade of 1960, and early 1970s. It is to be noted that while these events seems to be sudden or revolutionary, they were preceded by many isolated brilliant groups of scientists and engineers working around the world; the accretion of these results appears to be revolutionary for the distant observer. Some of these “revolutionary” efforts continue to this date.
During this same period, 1950-1960, in America, perhaps due to its size, the biomechanics efforts appeared to be scattered and sparse. Mostly, biomechanics studies were focused on blood flow in the mammalian vasculature, and air flow in the lung, in many of its manifestations, eg, propagation of waves through the arterial system, and largely motivated by copious amounts of literature from the physiologists. Notable amongst this large volume of physiological literature was from the European continent, eg, German and Swedish physiologists, and 3 important American biomechanists: Y.C. Fung of Caltech and UCSD, R. Skalak and S. Chien (a trained physiologist) of Columbia, and M. Anliker of Stanford. Of particular interest is that all the above mentioned intrepid pioneers were from the fluid mechanics side of mechanics; Skalak being an exception who studied and taught civil engineering at Columbia, albeit also from the fluid mechanics side pursuing collaborative research with S. Chien on microcirculation. Fung focused on fluid-solid interactions in his initial studies based on his extensive research experience on aeroelasticity emphasizing the interactions between aerodynamics pressures and elastic deformations and stresses in wing structures, eg, air flow through lung tissues. Beside this American bi-coastal emphasis, H.R. Lissner began his efforts at Wayne State University in Michigan beginning in the early 1950s in his studies of the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system following the tradition of Galileo and Leonardo Da Vinci, and motivated out of the need to understand the effects of impact on whole human bodies, or segments of human bodies necessitated from the need to understand the mechanics of the pilot ejection from fast flying airplanes or automobile crashes. Some of this early work was collated in an ASME publication, 1967, entitled Biomechanics Monograph, edited by E.F. Byars, R. Contini and V.L. Roberts. Roberts (Duke University) and F.G. Evans would go on to establish the Journal of Biomechanics, one of today’s flagship journals of the field. The first in the series of the ASME conferences on biomechanics began with the publication on the symposium held at Georgia Tech: Proceedings on the 1973 Biomechanics Symposium: Properties of Biological Fluids and Solids; Mechanics of Tissues and Organs, edited by YC Fung and JA Brighton (Penn State). This meeting was timely, and was very successful, and attracted many adherents, many of whom were young traditionally trained engineers in aeronautical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, materials engineering, mechanical engineering, etc. There were very few biomedical engineering departments in the country training biomedical engineers. However, over the years, this cadre of young and talented engineers became the well-spring for biomechanics and biomedical engineering. This series continues to date with the Annual Summer Bioengineering Conference, SBC, which is now one of the major forums for bioengineering and biomechanics.
The Coalescence of Young Engineering Talents and New Visions for Bioengineering
During this period, there were few forums, except those which were afforded by the traditional engineering professional societies of ASME, ASCE, IEEE and AIChE for engineers to meet, to present the results of their studies; moreover, there were very few jobs that employed biomedical engineers…this was a situation that was to change in the succeeding decades. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, due to the international and national unrests caused by the Viet Nam War, many of these traditionally trained engineers were seeking new ways to express their creative energies and devoting their talents other than projects on topics related military needs. Among this “second generation” of young engineers were the future stars of biomechanics. A short list of these early second generation bioengineers, or biomedical engineers (in alphabetical order) were: S. Atluri, T.B. Belytschko, D.L. Butler, K.B. Chandran, E.Y.S. Chao, S.C. Cowin, E.A. Evans, T.K. Hung, W.C. Hayes, I. Knets, W.M. Lai, R.S. Lakes, Y.K. Liu, R.M. Nerem, V.C. Mow, A.B. Schultz, W.C. Van Buskirk, S.L.Y. Woo; most of these traditionally trained engineers presented papers and/or attended the 1973 ASME Biomechanics Symposium mentioned above. Amongst this list of “second generation” biomechanics are 8 fellows of the National Academy of Engineering, and 3 fellows of the Institute of Medicine. Indeed, biomechanics, and bioengineering, were attracting many young engineering talents into the “field”.
In 1931, ICSU in an International Council for Science of non-governmental organizations with a global membership of national scientific bodies (120 Members, representing 140 countries) and International Scientific Unions (31 Members) was formed. ICSU’s mission is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society. To do this, ICSU mobilizes the knowledge and resources of the international science community to: 1) Identify and address major issues of importance to science and society; 2) Facilitate interaction amongst scientists across all disciplines and from all countries; 3) Promote the participation of all scientists—regardless of race, citizenship, language, political stance, or gender—in the international scientific endeavor; 4) Provide independent, authoritative advice to stimulate constructive dialogue between the scientific community and governments, civil society, and the private sector. The long-term strategic vision is for a world where science is used for the benefit of all, excellence in science is valued and scientific knowledge is effectively linked to policy making. In order to achieve this vision, ICSU developed a Strategic Plan 2006–2011 which identifies key priorities and associated activities. These activities focus on three areas: 1) International Research Collaboration; 2) Science for Policy; 3) Universality of Science.
The main ICSU Secretariat (19 staff in 2012) is based in Paris and ensures the day-to-day planning and operations under the guidance of an elected Executive Board. A small number of Policy Committees assist the Executive Board in its work and a General Assembly of all Members is convened every three years. ICSU has three Regional Offices—Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean. The offices support scientific networks in their regions, facilitate the participation of scientists from developing countries in the activities of ICSU and its Members, and ensure that the ICSU strategy and activities are responsive to the needs of developing countries. The activities of the offices are guided by dedicated regional scientific committees. ICSU also has 17 Interdisciplinary Bodies, established with various strategic partners, that address major issues of relevance to both science and society.
The principal source of ICSU's finances is the contributions it receives from its members. Other sources of income are the framework contracts from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and grants and contracts from United Nations bodies, foundations and agencies, which are used to support the scientific activities of the ICSU Unions and interdisciplinary bodies.
ICSU was founded in 1931 to promote international scientific activity in the different branches of science and its application for the benefit of humanity. It is one of the oldest non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the world and represents the evolution and expansion of two earlier bodies known as the International Association of Academies (IAA; 1899-1914) and the International Research Council (IRC; 1919-1931). In 1998, Members agreed that the Council’s current composition and activities would bebetter reflected by modifying the name from the International Council of Scientific Unions to the International Council for Science, while its rich history and strong identity would be well served by retaining the existing acronym, ICSU.
ICSU's strength and uniqueness lies in its dual membership of National Scientific Members and International Scientific Unions. The wide spectrum of scientific expertise in the membership, allows ICSU to address major, international, interdisciplinary issues which its Members could not handle alone. The Council acts as a focus for the exchange of ideas and information and the development of standards. Hundreds of congresses, symposia and other scientific meetings are organized each year around the world, and a wide range of newsletters, handbooks and journals is published.
The Formation of IUTAM and Implications for the Formation of the USNCB
The International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics was initially proposed by Professor Theodore von Kármán (later founder of Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory of Caltech, and JPL) at a conference held in Innsbruck in September 1922. The purpose of this conference was to discuss questions related to hydrodynamics and aerodynamics, and perhaps to establish a much needed world-wide forum to discuss these topics. Following the World War I, however, due to political tension remaining amongst European nations, and with America, individual national Congresses on applied mechanics were held in various countries, but not a Union. It was not until September 1946 that at an organizing meeting held in Paris at Sorbonne that the stellar cast of applied mechanists and applied mathematicians (including: H. Villat, M. Roy, J. Pérès, A. Caquot, A. Kolmogorov, K. Popoff, R.V. Southwell, G.I. Taylor, C.B. Biezeno, J.M. Burgers, J. Ackeret, R. von Mises, J.P. den Hartog, and Th. von Kármán) that a draft of a set of by-laws was written for governing the proposed International Union became acceptable. In a letter from J.M. Burger, January 1947, the members of the IUTAM were informed that the Statutes for the formation of IUTAM were adopted. An application was immediately sent to ICSU for admission. In the circular letter of June 1947, it was mentioned that ICSU had accepted IUTAM as adhering body. In September 1947, in view of the planning for the Congress of 1948 that a provisional Bureau was chosen, with R.V. Southwell as acting president, H. Villat as acting vice-president, H.L. Dryden as acting treasurer, and J.M. Burgers as acting secretary. Thus IUTAM was launched, and continues to this date with congresses following every 4 years.
IUPESM is composed of two organizations: International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering (IFMBE) and the International Organization for Medical Physics (IOMP). Both of these organizations independently support for their ~100 independent national members totaling more than 40,000 individual members. IOMP was formed in January 1963 initially with 4 affiliated national member organizations. The Organization has a membership in year 2010 of 80 national member organizations and 6 regional organizations. IOMP is charged with a mission to advance medical physics practice worldwide by disseminating scientific and technical information, fostering the educational and professional development of medical physics and promoting the highest quality medical services for patients. IOMP works together with such International Organizations as the International Atomic Energy Agency and World Health Organization of the U.N. to strengthen the role of medical physicists.
IFMBE was formed in 1959 by a group of medical engineers, physicists and physicians met at the 2nd International Conference of Medical and Biological Engineering, in the UNESCO Building, Paris, France. At that time there were few national biomedical engineering societies and workers in the discipline joined as Associates of the Federation. Later, as national societies were formed, these societies became affiliates of the Federation (see Wikipedia site on IFMBE). In the mid-1960s, the name was shortened to International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering (IFMBE). Its international conferences were held first on a yearly basis, then on a two-year basis and eventually on a three-year basis, to conform to the practice of most other international scientific bodies. The short-lived Annual Conference on Engineering and Biology (an American effort: ACEMB) joined IFMBE, ca. 1976, and was subsequently dissolved as an independent conference. As the Federation grew, its constituency and objectives changed. During the first ten years of its existence, clinical engineering became a viable sub-discipline with an increasing number of members employed in the health care area. The IFMBE mandate was expanded to represent those engaged in research and development and in Clinical Engineering. The latter category now represents close to half of the total membership. As of October 2010, IFMBE has an estimated 130,000 members in 61 affiliated organizations. The current president of IFMBE is H.F. Voigt of Boston University; Voigt is a Past-President of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), 2005-2007. The publication Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing (ISSN 0140-0118) is an organ of IFMBE.
USNCB and AIMBE
Following the 1973 Summer Biomechanics Symposium held at Georgia Tech, held under the auspicious of the ASME Divisions of Applied Mechanics and Fluid Mechanics, this summer event continued bi-annually, slowly at the beginning, but eventually gained significant momentum. Today, this meeting is known as the ASME Summer Bioengineering Conference, SBC, and is one of the major bioengineering events annually with approximately 1000 active bioengineers in attendance. The conversion from the Biomechanics Symposium to the Annual Summer Bioengineering Conference took place 20 years after the Georgia Tech Biomechanics Symposium; this meeting was held at Breckenridge, CO, June 27, 1993. The ASME Journal of Biomechanical Engineering carried and issue containing the proceedings from the 20th anniversary symposium.
In the 20 years between the 1973 Biomechanics Symposium and the 1993 Summer Bioengineering Conference, much organizational efforts took place to create the discipline of bioengineering, as we know it today. Some of the original participants of the Georgia Tech Biomechanics Symposium (D.L. Butler, Y.C. Fung, R.M. Nerem, V.C. Mow, A.B. Schultz, R. Skalak, S.L.Y. Woo) met at various ASME conferences and other venues to discuss the possibility of forming an international union such as IUTAM. On occasions, a few other bioengineers who happened to be present at some of these meetings were invited to attend and make input. As these meetings were open forums and all were welcome to attend. At one of these meetings, Fung suggested approaching ICSU to incorporate the embryonic concept of USNCB to be incorporated into ICSU. Soon, it was learned that IFMBE already occupied that position, and ICSU felt that an international union or committee with a scope focused on biomechanics would be too narrow. This idea, ie, approaching ICSU, was soon abandoned. However, work continued to define the concept of USNCB was led by Y.C. Fung and V.C. Mow. The scope, and by-laws, for USNCB was written, and regularly meetings of USNCB were held beginning late 1982, mostly at ASME Bioengineering forums. As with the early days of IUTAM, a strategy was developed for the USNCB meetings, and an overall agenda for USNCB was eventually developed: 1) to establish and coordinate international meetings on biomechanics; 2) pursue and foster new areas of biomechanics and bioengineering research; 3) take a leadership role in establishing an umbrella organization for biomechanics and bioengineering.
Under the auspicious of the USNCB, and developed from the foresight of Prof. Y.C. Fung, who had already developed the ground work for the first U.S.-China-Japan biomechanics held in Wuhan, China, May 9 – 12, 1983. Proceedings from this biomechanics symposium was edited by Y.C. Fung, E. Fukada, and J.J. Wang, and published by Science Press, Beijing, 1984. Participants of this meeting included 15 delegates from the U.S., 8 delegates from Japan, 71 from China, and 1 each from France, Netherlands, and Italy. American participants (in alphabetical order) included: Y.C. Fung, N.H.C. Huang (Univ Houston), J.L. Katz (RPI), J.S. Li (UVa), V.C. Mow, R.M. Nerem, R. Skalak, S. Weibaum (CCNY), T.Y. Wu (Caltech). The subsequent quadrennial U.S.-China-Japan meetings were held at the University of Osaka (1987), Japan, Georgia Tech in Atlanta (1991), Taiyuan, China (1995), Sendai University, Japan (1998). In 2004, to increase geographic coverage, this conference was broadened to include Singapore. These meetings had a major influence in promoting biomechanics on the international stage.
To define an effort for the second overarching goal of USNCB, ie, to pursue and foster new areas of biomechanics and bioengineering research, a conference was convened for discussions at a workshop on “Tissue Engineering”. This workshop was sponsored, and attended, by representatives from the NSF, ONR, DOE, NASA and Red Cross, October 28-30, 1987 in Washington DC. In attendance also at this planning workshop were various university representatives from disciplinary areas of cell biology, medicine and bioengineering. From this workshop, the NSF Division for Emerging Technology Research Initiations and Prospects recommended that a Tissue Engineering forum be held to develop the substance of “tissue engineering” as defined by those who had been active in bioengineering and biomechanics. Thus, the first tissue engineering conference was convened at the Granlibakken Hotel, Lake Tahoe, California on February 26-29, 1988. The USNCB took a major role in organizing this tissue engineering conference. Over 75 bioengineers and scientists participated in this first tissue engineering conference. A proceeding volume entitled: Tissue Engineering, edited by R. Skalak and C. F. Fox was published in 1988, Alan R. Liss, Inc., New York. In this volume appeared the first public definition of tissue engineering. “Tissue Engineering” is the application of principles and methods of engineering life sciences toward fundamental understanding of structure-function relationships in normal and pathological mammalian tissues and the development of biological substitutes to restore, maintain, or improve tissue function, by R. Skalak, C.F. Fox, Y.C.B. Fung. This definition evolved from a summary meeting of the conference; participants of this summary meeting included most those who had participated in organizing the USNCB.
The third goal, that the USNCB would take a leadership role toward establishing an umbrella organization for representing the disciplines of biomechanics and bioengineering. This goal was much more difficult to achieve and took much longer to realize. Efforts toward achieving this goal began modestly with a visit to the NSF in Washington DC in the late-1980s by three bioengineers: D.L. Butler, V.C. Mow and S.L.Y. Woo. A meeting with John A. White took placed at the NSF in Washington DC; White was assistant director of engineering at the NSF from 1988 to 1991. This was a very discouraging meeting. In essence, White informed and rebuked the three naiveties that NSF cannot, and would not, deal with such narrowly focused fields or parochial interests such as biomechanics. Fortunately, USNCB had been established on a firm foundation, in the tradition of IUTAM, and had sufficiently broad memberships by then, and it provided a stable vehicle to continue the efforts to create an umbrella organization to represent the field of biomedical engineering or bioengineering. A recurrent topic of discussion at these USNCB meetings during this period for the formation of AIMBE was what role will USNCB have following the creation of AIMBE? AIMBE is now a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., representing 50,000 individuals and the top 2% of medical and biological engineers. Indeed, during the period immediately following the creation of AIMBE, activities of USNCB diminished considerably. However, with almost every human endeavor, today, following the infusion of new talents, USNCB has gain renewed vitality and momentum. Indeed, the current efforts bode well for USNCB to continue to serve a vital role for the discipline of biomechanics.