Medicine: Too Much Oxygen

The deep-sea divers working on the sunken British submarine Thetis were a scientific problem to famed Biologist J.B.S. Haldane. One day, early in World War II, Briton Haldane impetuously clapped on an oxygen mask and, breathing pure oxygen (to study its effects), "dived" in a pressure chamber to a depth of seven atmospheric pressures (200 feet). The experiment nearly killed the experimenter, but it proved to him that oxygen, under pressure, is a violent poison.

Inspired in part by Haldane's dive, the British Navy launched a full-dress study of oxygen poisoning, now reported in the British Medical Journal. Oxygen is essential to...

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