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Mechanics of the Lung in the 20th Century

  1. Wayne Mitzner

Published Online: 1 OCT 2011

DOI: 10.1002/cphy.c100067

Comprehensive Physiology

Comprehensive Physiology

How to Cite

Mitzner, W. 2011. Mechanics of the Lung in the 20th Century. Comprehensive Physiology. 1:2009–2027.

Author Information

  1. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 OCT 2011


Major advances in respiratory mechanics occurred primarily in the latter half of the 20th century, and this is when much of our current understanding was secured. The earliest and ancient investigations involving respiratory physiology and mechanics were frequently done in conjunction with other scientific activities and often lacked the ability to make quantitative measurements. This situation changed rapidly in the 20th century, and this relatively recent history of lung mechanics has been greatly influenced by critical technological advances and applications, which have made quantitative experimental testing of ideas possible. From the spirometer of Hutchinson, to the pneumotachograph of Fleisch, to the measurement of esophageal pressure, to the use of the Wilhelmy balance by Clements, and to the unassuming strain gauges for measuring pressure and rapid paper and electronic chart recorders, these enabling devices have generated numerous quantitative experimental studies with greatly increased physiologic understanding and validation of mechanistic theories of lung function in health and disease. © 2011 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 1:2009-2027, 2011.