View Full Version : Re: Biomechanics nomenclature

Craig Nevin
12-22-1996, 08:11 PM
On Fri, 20 Dec 1996 14:02:33 -0500 Paul Allard wrote:

> A short time ago, I posted a message about who coined the

The word BIOMECHANICS consists two components BIO- and -MECHANICS.
An equally interesting question is, when was the word MECHANICS
brought into general use? The fact that extensive "biomechanical"
studies were conducted in the second half of the nineteeth century,
without adopting the BIO- prefix, may be a reflection of the fact
that the term "mechanics" was possibly considered redundant until the
relativistic alternatives of Einstein had been formulised in 1904.

A word cannot be brought into use unless it distinguishes one known
phenomenon from another known phenomenon. Up until that time the
vague useage, such as "mechanics" verses "not mechanics" is redundant
since it implies events unknown. All unknowns merge into the
semantic category "indistinguishable". Once a single exception is
made, other exceptions immediately spring to mind requiring prefix's.
The original definition then becomes the CLASSICAL model. Until that
time a prefix is inconceivable. I therefore doubt that the prefix
BIO- be found in the literaure prior to 1904, and that the
early occurance will be limited, at first, to the German literature
where the radical relativistic concept had origin.

The search for earlier references should perhaps focus on MECHANICS.

Breaking the word down further results in MECH- and -ANICS. This
useage was perhaps necessary to distinguish between rigid-body
mechanical theory and THERMO- and -DYNAMICS. Mechanical theory can
be divided into STATIC and DYNAMIC methodology, which eliminates the
-DYN- nomenclature that distinguishes it from THERMODYNAMICS; in at
least two ways.

Currently BIOMECHANICS is practiced as distinct from THERMODYNAMICS
even though the concept of KINETICS is now used extensively to
distinguish it from KINEMATICS without strictly adhering to even
basic thermodynamic principals. The KINETIC-KINEMATIC distinction is,
I believe, so-to-speak, postmature.

The use of Newton's Law f=ma is the "classical science" that relates
KINEMATIC acceleration with KINETIC concepts of force, mass and
energy. When Otto Fischer performed the classic kinematic study "Des
Gang des Menschen" (The human gait) between 1896 and 1904, the term
biomechanics was not used, simply because what we now call MECHANICS
was a discipline classified as distinct from THERMODYNAMICS.
The term BIOMECHANICS was not appropriate to distinguish it from
BIOTHERMODYNAMICS, a distinction that is clearly unnecessary.

It is only with hinsight that we classify the study as
"biomechanical" because that is how we view ourselves, we still
use that classic method.

Strictly speaking, KINEMATICS and KINETICS should be related
thermodynamically, not mechanically. The term BIOMECHANICS may
therefore be seen as a twentieth century substitute for the term
BIOTHERMOKINEMATICS or something similar.

BIOMECHANICS is totally dependant on the well founded assumption that
the Newtonian KINETIC and KINEMATIC accelerations are one and the
same. I believe that this will ultimately become the definition of
the CLASSICAL BIOMECHANICS period of the twentieth century----when
late Twenty-first Century historians attempt to reconstruct OUR

Happy Christmas to everyone I know (and to those I don't :)

Craig Nevin