Medicine by Design: The Practice and Promise of Biomedical Engineering


A heart that once beat erratically has regained its natural rhythm. A woman paralyzed by an automobile accident is now able to resume her favorite hobby. Physicians using a robotic surgeon named da Vinci perform lifesaving operations. These are some of the feats of biomedical engineering, one of the fastest-moving areas in medicine. In this exhilarating book, award-winning writer Fen Montaigne journeys through this little-known world, sharing the stories of ordinary people who ...

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A heart that once beat erratically has regained its natural rhythm. A woman paralyzed by an automobile accident is now able to resume her favorite hobby. Physicians using a robotic surgeon named da Vinci perform lifesaving operations. These are some of the feats of biomedical engineering, one of the fastest-moving areas in medicine. In this exhilarating book, award-winning writer Fen Montaigne journeys through this little-known world, sharing the stories of ordinary people who have been transformed by technology.

From the almost commonplace pacemaker to the latest generation of artificial hearts, Montaigne tells the stories of pioneering patients, engineers, and surgeons. Taking the reader behind the scenes of a dozen of America's leading centers of biomedical engineering, Montaigne recounts the field's history while describing cutting-edge work in medical imaging, orthopedics, cardiovascular care, neurological therapies, and genetics.

Through the stories of patients whose lives have been saved and improved by biomedical devices, Montaigne reveals the marriage of medicine and engineering to be one of society's greatest advances.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology - George Demiris

The book is well written and... it is easy to follow all the stories.

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Ralph D. Arcari, Ph.D.(University of Connecticut Health Center)
Description: This is an overview of the biomedical engineering research programs and initiatives currently underway in U.S. universities and corporations. Coverage includes both hardware, e.g., cardiac pacemakers and pharmacogenetics, e.g., man-made pancreatic replacement tissue for diabetics.
Purpose: "This book is a journey across the fascinating landscape of biomedical engineering." (p.6) A portrayal of the state-of-the-art of biomedical engineering at the beginning of the 21st century is a worthwhile objective. The intersection of the human genome project and the technology of electronics portends major advances in healthcare. The breadth of coverage through onsite interviews with practitioners and patients is significant. Depth is limited to an overview for an interested layperson.
Audience: Individuals seeking to make a decision regarding a health sciences career choice in which bioengineering is an option would find this book helpful. Interviewees indicate why this field is meaningful for them. The author is a freelance writer who has written for National Geographic and whose previous books are on volcanoes, fly fishing in Russia, and espionage.
Features: A wide range of treatments and therapies predicated on bioengineering are presented including cardiac defibrillation, insulin pumps, bone growth through electrical stimulation, robotic surgery, and genetically-based replacement tissue. The writing is this book's strength because it makes technical developments accessible to the nonspecialist. However, the illustrations are eclectic, there is no glossary, and there are neither footnotes nor a bibliography. Acronyms can be identified through the index.
Assessment: This book would fill a niche in a collection supporting a high school career counseling office and perhaps that of a college counselor. A survey text for a practicing bioengineer or for a biomedical engineering 101 course would be Introduction to Biomedical Engineering, 2nd edition, Enderle, Blanchard and Bronzino (Elsevier Academic Press, 2005).

Montaigne writes engagingly... the book is a wonderful introduction to the field of biomedical engineering.

Midwest Book Review

College-level collections—and many a public library—will find it engrossing.


Featuring some of the most recognized names in bioengineering as well as up-and-comers... this is the fascinating story of a discipline only dreamed of by Mary Shelley.

Midwest Book Review

College-level collections -- and many a public library -- will find it engrossing.

Library Journal
Freelance writer Montaigne (coauthor, Surviving Galeras) is clearly an admirer of the field of biomedical engineering and of its practitioners. He traces the subject's history starting with the work of one of its pioneers, Uncas Whitaker, whose Whitaker Foundation funded several biomedical engineering schools (and provided a grant for this book). Montaigne's research took him to a number of schools and companies, where interviews with students, teachers, engineers, scientists, physicians, and patients formed the basis for much of the story. Chapters deal with imaging, artificial organs and joints, robotic surgery, genetic engineering, implantable pumps, wires in the brain to calm tremors, and potential future developments. Moving from the use of early, bulky machines to methods of coaxing the body to repair itself in new ways and touching briefly on the potential of stem cells, Montaigne has written a fascinating book. Missing, however, is more than a cursory mention of the political and ethical controversies surrounding some of these advances. In Ramez Naam's More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, many of the same subjects are covered, but the controversies are directly confronted. Recommended for public libraries.-Dick Maxwell, Porter Adventist Hosp. Lib., Denver Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801883477
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Fen Montaigne is a freelance writer who often contributes to National Geographic. His previous books include Surviving Galeras (Houghton Mifflin, 2001), Reeling in Russia (St. Martin's, 1998), and The First Directorate (St. Martin's, 1994).

Johns Hopkins University Press

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2007

    Would Have been an Excellent Book

    It is an excellent book: engaging, informative, and it covers quite a bit of material. However, the second paragraph on page 7 starts: 'The seniors were a diverse group---including students from China, India, Palestine, and Russia...' I got stumbled on the word Palestine. I can understand that Fen Montaigne, the award-winning writer, may be unaware of the fact that there is no country with such name, but wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that the editors at the Johns Hopkins University Press are less ignorant? Of course, the young student at Boston U. Inas Khayal couldn't have been born in Palestine (page 21) unless she is at least fifty-nine years old...And so the 'young student at Boston U. Inas Khayal' has turned the award-winning writer Fen Montaigne into a useful idiot... (I am referring to the utterly descriptive term 'useful idiot' which was coined by Vladimir Lenin some 85 years ago) Allowing to push political agendas onto pages of books designed to popularize science and technology is disheartening, to say the least.

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