Dr. Earl Wood was Mayo pioneer in aerospace medicine
ROCHESTER, Minn., March 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Earl Wood, M.D., Ph.D., the Mayo Clinic investigator credited with inventing the high-altitude pressure suit worn by pilots and astronauts, died March 18 in Rochester, Minn. He was 97.
"As both a physician and researcher, Dr. Wood provided nearly five decades of outstanding leadership to Mayo Clinic and scientific advancements to the world," says Denis Cortese, M.D., Mayo Clinic president and CEO. "His achievements made manned spaceflight possible and contributed to American national defense since WWII. His legacy of discovery will benefit society for decades to come."
Dr. Wood was born January 1, 1912, in Mankato, Minn. A 1934 graduate of
From 1942, Dr. Wood was an integral member of the Mayo Clinic Aero Medical Unit, which developed the first civilian human centrifuge in the United States. The centrifuge was used to test human reactions to high levels of gravitational (G) forces. The team of Drs. Wood and Code, and Drs. Edward Lambert and E.J. Baldes tested the centrifuge themselves, risking their personal safety to safeguard others involved in their research. They followed the same "do no harm" approach when, later, they tested equipment inside aircraft. Barry Gilbert, Ph.D., a Mayo physiologist who worked with Dr. Wood, says this group didn't hesitate to be their own "guinea pigs."
"People need to appreciate that for four years Dr. Wood and his colleagues got up every day and risked their lives in the service of their country," says Dr. Gilbert.
In large part, their top secret work laid the foundation for the science behind modern aerospace physiology and made travel possible in the upper levels of the atmosphere and outer space. WWII bomber pilots, jet fighter pilots, the test pilots who broke the sound barrier, and today's astronauts wore the suit, in various versions.
The group quickly gained an international reputation that extended to heart, lung and blood physiology and cardiac catheterization. "Dr. Wood was absolutely instrumental in the development of cardiopulmonary bypass, a technology that saves hundreds of thousands of lives every year," says Thoralf Sundt III, Mayo Clinic surgeon.
Directly or in part, Dr. Wood was responsible for:
In 1958, research using the centrifuge got a second boost when the U.S. Air Force and NASA requested that Dr. Wood continue his studies on G forces. He and his team tested prototypes of the Project Mercury astronaut couches on Mayo's centrifuge.
Dr. Wood headed Mayo Clinic's Cardiovascular Laboratory and became a Career Investigator of the American Heart Association in 1962. Countless fellows, visiting scientists and clinicians came to study in his lab and learn new techniques. He was chairman of the Biodynamics Research Unit from 1975 to 1976 and advanced through the academic ranks to become a professor in the
Dr. Wood published over 700 articles and numerous book chapters. He was president of the American Physiological Society from 1980 to 1981, and president of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology. He was a fellow of the
He is survived by four children, Phoebe Busch, Denver, Colo.; Mark Wood, Fresno, Calif.; Guy Wood, Corvallis, Ore.; and Andy Wood, Rochester, Minn.; and by four grandchildren.
About Mayo Clinic
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VIDEO ALERT: Audio and video resources are available on the Mayo Clinic News Blog http://newsblog.mayoclinic.org/2009/03/20/inventor-of-g-suit-dies/ .
For an additional documentary visit http://vimeo.com/1924164.
|SOURCE Mayo Clinic|
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