Project Wonder - The art of science at the Medical College of Wisconsin

Which came first?

Which came first: Scuba or hyperbaric medicine? In 1937 MCW faculty member Dr. Edgar End pioneered the use of pressurized helium-oxygen for deep diving.

Dr. End’s work drew the attention of Milwaukee deep-sea diver Max Nohl (pictured), who was interested in developing underwater equipment that would allow him to explore the wreckage of the Lusitania.

Working in the decompression chamber at Milwaukee County Emergency Hospital, Dr. End discovered an inhaled mixture of helium and oxygen enabled people to breathe normally when in pressurized situations. Together Nohl and Dr. End clearly established the practical use and vast benefits to be gained from helium-oxygen as a breathing mixture for deep diving.

They went on to develop other underwater diving apparatuses for the U.S. Navy. Dr. End also conducted research on the use of hyperbaric oxygen in the treatment of other ailments include carbon monoxide poisoning. His discoveries gave birth to a new field of study: hyperbaric medicine.

Artwork by Alex Boyes
Source photo courtesy of: Local History Manuscript Collection / Milwaukee Public Library