‘Based on a calculation, Hill and Greenwood decompressed themselves, without any serious symptoms, after short exposures at excess pressures of as much as five and even six atmospheres.’

This landmark article, advocating a cure for ‘the Bends’, has resurfaced over a century after first appearing in print. The article, entitled ‘The Prevention of Compressed Air illness‘ has been made available online as part of the Cambridge Journals Digital Archive (CJDA). Originally published in June 1908 in the Journal of Hygiene, (now known as Epidemiology and Infection), the article was one of the first to advocate the use of decompression, to prevent what was then known as ‘diver’s palsy’ or ‘caisson disease’. 

This condition caused incidences of temporary and permanent paralysis, dyspnoea and ‘the Bends’. By subjecting goats to varying degrees of ascent times using a decompression cylinder, the authors looked at the symptoms to ascertain the correct amount of decompression necessary to avoid the illness. It was termed ‘the Bends’ due to the bent limbs exhibited by the goats as a result of the rapid decompression.

The lessons learned were then used to inform the creation of the world’s first dive tables, specifying the ascent time needed at different depths and water pressures, to avoid a build up of gas, chiefly nitrogen, in the bloodstream, the primary cause of ‘the Bends’. The article therefore represents a significant and far-reaching breakthrough in diving technology.

Read the full article entirely free of charge until 31st December 2013 here.

This seminal article is amongst the 670,000 now available in the Cambridge Journals Digital Archive (CJDA). You can find out more about the CJDA here. 

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