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The Dark Story of How Scientists Used Goats to Solve the Bends

October 9, 2018 in History

By Joseph A. Williams

In 1905 a Scottish physiologist tested a method to help divers avoid the bends. Some goats were lost in the process.

Bends in the foreleg of a goat after experiments performed by physiologist John S. Haldane, published in the Journal of Hygiene Vol. 8, 1908.

When the autopsy was performed on the diver in 1900, they found bubbles in his brain and heart. There were so many bubbles, in fact, that when examiners lifted the heart, it gurgled with froth. The cause of death was decompression sickness. And while doctors knew the cause of the condition, they desperately needed a way to prevent it. For the Scottish physiologist tasked with finding a solution, it would take multiple tests—and 85 goats—to find a method to avoid the excruciating condition.

Any person working under compressed air is subject to decompression sickness–this is especially true for and Seventeen Fathoms Deep: The Saga of the Submarine S-4 Disaster.

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