View Full Version : In Memoriam: John V. Basmajian (21 June 1921 - 18 March 2008)

Devi De Luca
03-19-2008, 02:10 AM
(Forwarded behalf of Prof. Carlo De Luca)

In Memoriam

John V. Basmajian (21 June 1921 - 18 March 2008)

With profound sadness, I inform the scientific community of the passing
of John V. Basmajian, O. C., O. Ont., MD, FRCPC, FRCPS (Glasgow), FACRM
(Australia), FACA, FABMR, FASBM on March 18, 2008 after a long
affliction with Alzheimer's compounded by complications. He is survived
by his wife, Dora, three children, and four grandchildren.

Dr. John Basmajian received an MD degree (1945) from the University of
Toronto, Canada. He intended to specialize in Orthopedic Surgery but was
restricted by health reasons, and instead specialized in Anatomy. He
leaves a legacy in Rehabilitation Medicine equaled by only a handful of
specialists during the past century. Dr. Basmajian modernized the
discipline of Anatomy from a science of the dead to a science of the
living. This notion is exemplified by the title and contents of his most
famous book, Muscles Alive, which was the first collection of studies
that used technology to study muscle behavior during voluntary activity.
This book sparked the imaginations of countless students and
practitioners of Health Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering to explore
the workings of muscles and, as he put it "their functions revealed by
Electromyography". His passion and tireless curiosity for understanding
human movement in the normal and dysfunctional states brought forth more
than two dozen books and nearly 400 scientific papers -- a collection of
works matched by few, if any, in the field. His scientific achievements
were recognized by the Canadian government when he was awarded the
highest civilian honor of the country as an Officer of the Order of
Canada (O. C.).

He was a visionary. His ideas and works of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s
forecasted fields of study such a Kinesiology and Bioengineering, before
the words were in common parlance. He was among the first scientists to
provide techniques in Physical Therapy with rational factual bases. I
remember his agitated lectures on the fundamental importance of muscles
that spanned two joints. Although he had no formal training in
Biomechanics, he had an uncanny intuition about the concepts of force,
moments, and torques. He was the towering giant of Electromyography of
his time. He was so convinced that Electromyography should be
appreciated by the greater scientific community that he cajoled other
colleagues to form the International Society of Electromyography and
Kinesiology (ISEK). This society now recognizes John's pioneering
contributions and devotion to the field with the Basmajian Lecture which
opens the biannual Congresses of ISEK.

He embraced technology as few physicians of his age did. I recall that
on the first day I met him as graduate student in 1968, he set up a
meeting in his lab, not his office, and within minutes of our encounter
he asked me questions as to how one could increase the input impedance
of amplifiers used to detect indwelling EMG signals. I had never before
heard such words come from the mouth of a medical doctor. I quickly
learned to pay attention to his guidance, and to consider his witty
paternal suggestions. I learned much more than science at his side. As
he did with many of his students, he forced us to understand our
strengths and weaknesses. He insisted that we be passionate about our
work. For John, science was a love affair.

John loved people. He was evangelistic about his work. He enjoyed
lecturing and teaching all over the world. He touched the spirits and
minds of thousands of students the world over. He was idolized. In a
moment of levity, I once asked John what he would do if he could not be
a scientist. He responded that he would likely become a union organizer
"because he enjoyed helping people harmonize in a common endeavor." Well
John, you succeeded beyond your expectation. You did more than that, you
recruited thousands of followers to sustain the life of your ideas, and
you organized scientific disciplines.

The world has lost a great scientist, Dora a loving and devoted husband,
his children a caring father, and I have lost a mentor who pointed the
vector of my career in a most rewarding direction. His memories and his
writings will remain in our hearts and in our minds.

Carlo J De Luca

Boston, USA

19 March 2008