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By Dr. Wilson Greatbatch


I am sure that the term "Bioelectromagnetism" means many different things to many different people. To me it means "The Coalescence of the Sciences".

We engineers feel very good about Ohm's Law. It is the same yesteday, today, and tomorrow out to many decimal places. But we forget that the reason this is so is that we are averaging the chaotic vibrations of many billions of electrons so that the average is always the same. As we go into the macrosciences like physics and chemistry, things are no longer so precisely repetitive. As we get into physiology and medicine, very little is ever the same and it often becomes almost more of an art than a science.

But as we get down into the science of very small biological units such as the nucleotides of the human genome, things seem better organized. Each rung on the DNA "ladder" (can you believe three billion rungs?) is made up of two nucleotides. There are only four nucleotides we can use, A,C, T and G. A always matches with T and C always matches with G. Three rungs code for an amino acid, and a bundle of amino acids make up a protein. Proteins make up us, so that everything we are is dictated by the sequence of the nucleotides on each rung of the ladder. Nucleotides are very small, only a few dozen atoms apiece. You can't see them in an electron microscope. They are so fundamental that they actually don't know if they are plant or animal, or if they are male or female. But when you start putting them together they pretty much go together the same way every time, reminiscent of our electrical laws in engineering.

So I believe all the Sciences are coalescing into one and that one is biology, specifically molecular biology. I note that the recent annual meeting (which I helped organize) of our USA Academy of Engineering had "Bioengineering" as its theme. I also note that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is now requiring their engineering students to include biology in their engineering education. So I suspect that "Bioelectromagnetism" is coming into its own as a very broad-ranging, philosophical study of the effect of electricity and magnetism on all forms of plant and animal life, in diagnosis, analysis, and therapy.



The above keynote address was given by Dr. Wilson Greatbatch, the inventor of the implantable cardiac pacemaker, in February 1998 in Australia at the Convention of the 2nd International Conference on Bioelectromagnetism. At 78 years, Dr. Greatbatch still continues to work on various scientific research projects. He is the recipient of numerous awards, and lives with his wife Eleanor near Buffalo, New York. Dr. Greatbatch also serves as the Vice-Grandmaster of the Order of Alexander the Great for Art and Science.


Copyright 1999 Museum of European Art


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