IEEE PULSE presents

A Life Well Lived: In Memory of Máximo E. Valentinuzzi

Feature November/December 2021

THIS ARTICLE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF MAX E. VALENTINUZZI, AN IEEE EMBS LIFE FELLOW AND ARGENTINIAN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEER OF UNPARALLELED ACHIEVEMENTS AND SPECIAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS MAGAZINE. DR. VALENTINUZZI PASSED AWAY ON 3 JANUARY 2021.

Throughout his career, Dr. Máximo (Max) E. Valentinuzzi worked long and hard for the development of the BME profession locally, regionally, and internationally. His accomplishments were numerous and valuable, including his editorship of the IEEE Pulse special column known as “Retrospectroscope” for more than ten years. A highlight and strength of the magazine over the past decade, this special column was built largely on the efforts and contributions from Dr. Valentinuzzi (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Jean Baptiste Auguste Chauveau’s projecting kymograph used during the 1860s. Presented by Max E. Valentinuzzi and the IEEE/EMBS History Group, Lyon, France, September 2007 [A49]. (Photo courtesy of Prof. Andrè Dittmar.)

After the IEEE Magazine on Engineering in Medicine and Biology was renamed as IEEE Pulse in 2010, Dr. Valentinuzzi took over its first column editorship of “Retrospectroscope” from Dr. Les Geddes. “To inherit the ‘Retrospectroscope’ column from Les Geddes is an honor that took me by surprise and shook me internally,” Max wrote in his first column in IEEE Pulse, “when Mike Neuman made me the offer during the 32nd IEEE/Engineering in Medicine and Biology (EMB) Conference held in Buenos Aires, in September 2010. Too big, too much the responsibility, but quite a glaring challenge that 24 hours later I accepted after convincing myself that Les would have been happy with it” [A58].

The greatest feature in choosing Max was that he had been steadily and eagerly devoted to the column ever since that time. With a full understanding of the subject area that constitutes a universe of essential and important knowledge, Max, working with long-standing members of the BME community, published over 30 articles in the special column covering a range of topics, with some specific subject areas such as anticoagulants, anesthesia, music therapy, biomechanics, and biomathematics.

“The first time I got to know Dr. Valentinuzzi was in 2012 when Prof. Mike Neuman asked me to join him, Max, and several other colleagues for an invited article on the 100th anniversary celebration of the PROCEEDINGS OF THE IEEE,” said Yuan-Ting Zhang, the chair of the Working Group for IEEE Standard 1708 on Wearable Cuffless Blood Pressure Measuring Devices. Max’s contributions to the history review of blood pressure (BP) devices were seminal. Using photographs, pieces of equipment, his recollections, and old experimental records, he presented three articles in IEEE Pulse in 2012 about the inventor of the world’s first continuous BP devices—“Ludwig: The Bioengineer” [A49], “Ludwig: The Physiologist” [A48], and “Ludwig: The Teacher” [A47]. In 1847, Ludwig developed the kymograph, which was a major breakthrough for obtaining continuous BP recording and other hemodynamic information. In 1916, on the 100th anniversary of Ludwig’s birth, Prof. Warren P. Lombard honored him in Science [4], and immediately before Ludwig’s 200th birthday in 2016, Max renewed this academic celebration in IEEE Pulse. Max’s overview captured the attention of our audience to a great extent [5].

“‘Retrospectroscope’ was always a fascinating read as he would bring a fresh perspective to a diversity of topics in his own intimate way,” said Colin Brenan, former editor-in-chief of IEEE Pulse. As an example, his last column “Syncopation and its Perceptions [A1] spoke to the key elements of syncopation and its emotional and cognitive effects by using a Neapolitan ditty he likely learned from his Neapolitan maternal grandmother as the starting point for the conversation.”

Many others who had the privilege to work with Max agree that he made significant contributions to the field over his lifetime (Figure 2). James Patton, professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, reminisced that “Max was one of the nicest people and a real celebrity of bioengineering. It was a real thrill to interact with him when I worked on the Program Committee for the EMBC in 2010 in Argentina.” 

Figure 2. Dr. Max Valentinuzzi (center), pictured here with Dr. Diego Beltramone, professor of BME at the National University of Cordoba (Universidad Nacional de Cordoba) and the director of the School of BME (left), and Dr. Luis Kun (right), dedicated himself entirely to BME during his lifetime. He gave immense service to the development of BME in his region and the IEEE EMBS—especially to IEEE Pulse. For the last ten years of his life he was the editor of the “Retrospectroscope” column, from its first issue in 2010 until his death. The main purpose of much of his work was to improve the historical aspects of BME. (Photo courtesy of Luis Kun.)

“Max was there at the start of BME in South America, bringing it to the forefront, and his contributions in his time were seminal. For example, he worked with one of the early giants in the field, Leslie Geddes, at Purdue on defibrillation, and even visited and worked with the Johns Hopkins implanted defibrillator group, where I was a young faculty member,” recalled Nitish Thakor, Ph.D. “Max was able to do some unique experiments that couldn’t be done in the USA, for example, testing the fibrillation/defibrillation thresholds in some Amazonian species! We will remember him as a person, his gentle and jovial self, his team-building skills (his many students/colleagues/alumni), and his scientific contributions.”

“He was a living force in BME in R9, and displayed until the end an undying interest in promoting the younger generations of Latin American biomedical engineers,” added Roberto Janniel Lavarello Montero.

Metin Akay, president of the IEEE EMBS, stated, “Max was an exceptional biomedical engineer and educator. He was indeed a scientific ambassador to promote the field of BME and clinical engineering for decades. He inspired us in many ways—scientifically, socially, and culturally, and his exemplary contributions will always be remembered and appreciated.”

At the end of 2020, Max expressed a wish to retire from his work on the “Retrospectroscope” column. He wrote:

After quite many years of having collaborated with the magazine, it is time to retire and let the place to someone else. I have completed 88 turns around the King Sun and my health is not too good, none the less, I keep thinking what my former dear Professor Leslie A. Geddes told me the last time I talked with him: Worn out, but not rusty. It is a mental attitude, psychologically useful.

“Max was an incredibly interesting person with boundless knowledge of the field,” said Cynthia Weber, managing editor of IEEE Pulse. “He was always eager to share new ideas, and in every way and in every instance, he was a kind and generous person. Max’s knowledge and interest in the history of BME was unparalleled. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him for many years, and he and his enthusiasm, as well as his wonderful essays, are sorely missed.”

Dr. Valentinuzzi, an IEEE EMBS Life Fellow (IEEE/EMBS member of more than 50 years), was born in Buenos Aires on February 24, 1932. He received a degree in telecommunications engineering from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and, later, a Ph.D. of physiology and biophysics from the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA. He developed extensive activities as a professor, both at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA, and at the Baylor College of Medicine, where he developed his work in physiology. He served as a full professor from 1972 until his mandatory retirement in 2003 at the Bioelectronics Laboratory, National University of Tucumán (UNT), Tucumán, Argentina. 

Max promoted the development of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in bioengineering in Argentina, but his pioneering contributions both academically and scientifically are widely recognized in all of Latin America and internationally. He was the co-founder (1981) and the director (1987) of the Argentine Higher Institute for Biological Research (INSIBIO), the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET). From 2007 to 2016, he actively worked as a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IIBM) of the UBA. During this period, he collaborated on topics related to the modeling of the circulatory system such as ventricular hypertrophy, the prediction of ventricular fibrillation, and in vector-cardiography models.

Max was the author of more than 150 scientific articles, three books, numerous book chapters, and a guest editor in ten special issues of renowned journals in his specialty. He received over 25 awards and honors for his work including the 1973 Nightingale Award for Bioengineering (from the IFMBE and the Biological Engineering Society of London). Other honors are as follows:

  • 1981: Bernardo A. Houssay Award in collaboration with the Argentine Society of Biology, for his contributions on defibrillation. 
  • 1984: Golden Tour Award for Sciences, by the Society of Newspaper Distributors of Buenos Aires. 
  • 1985: Catalina B. de Barón Award, with the Favaloro Foundation Bioengineering Laboratory, for the project on intracardiac impedance.
  • 1989: Awarded the title of Academician of the National Academy of Engineering.
  • 1990: Member of the Academy of Medical Sciences of Córdoba.
  • 1996: IEEE EMBS awarded him the Career Achievement Award, being the only Latin American recipient of an award of this type for BME. 
  • 1997: Founding Fellow of the International Academy for Medical and Biological Engineering, Nice, France.
  • 2004: Bernardo Houssay Award from the SECyT, for Career in Scientific and Technological Research.
  • 2005: Félix Cernuschi Award for Bioengineering, from the National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of the UBA.
  • 2018: IFMBE Life Honorary Member, Prague, Czech Republic.

During that same year he was awarded the Konex Prize in the area of communications. As reflected by his many awards and recognitions, his remarkable scientific contributions cover a spectrum of fields, including bioimpedance, cardiovascular system, fibrillation–defibrillation, impedance microbiology, numerical deconvolution, and BME education. Max was also a founding member and president from 1991 to 1994 of the Latin American Regional Council of Biomedical Engineering (CORAL) and a founding fellow of International Academy for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Over the years, Max became known for a personal, humanistic view of science among his colleagues, students, and disciples. Dedication and discipline were accompanied with kindness, affection, and cultivation of human values. In his thoughts, he always believed that “to be” was remarkably better than “to have.” For the “Retrospectroscope” column, Max drew on his diverse experience to produce articles of wide interest and historical content. Among his other passions that can be highlighted are healthy living and nature, playing sports, caring for animals, playing the piano (Max was a Tango master-enthusiast), and long talks with children on Sundays. He is survived by his wife Nilda and daughters Debora Fabiana and Veronica. Max left a large professional and personal footprint; he will be dearly missed by the global BME community (Figure 3).

This tribute includes remembrances by many persons whose lives were touched by Dr. Valentinuzzi, as well as biographical information. We are grateful to the colleagues for their assistance with this memorial article. We hope that this memorial article will be treasured by all who knew him, and that it will be a source of inspiration for dedicated now and in times to come.

Figure 3. March 2020 during the SABI 2020 (Argentinian Society of Biomedical Engineering) meeting held in Piriapolis, Uruguay, and where Dr. Valentinuzzi was honored. (Photos courtesy of Luis Kun.)

References

  1. M. E. Valentinuzzi, T. Powell, H. E. Hoff, and L. A. Geddes, “Control parameters of the blood pressure regulatory system—Part I: Heart rate sensitivity,” Med. Biol. Eng., vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 584–595, Sep. 1972.
  2. M. E. Valentinuzzi, T. Powell, H. E. Hoff, L. A. Geddes, and J. A. Posey, “Control parameters of the blood pressure regulatory system—Part II: Open-loop gain, reference pressure and basal heart rate,” Med. Biol. Eng., vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 596–608, Sep. 1972.
  3. M. R. Neuman et al., “Advances in medical devices and medical electronics,” Proc. IEEE, vol. 100, no. Special Centennial Issue, pp. 1537–1550, May 2012.
  4. W. P. Lombard, “The life and work of Carl Ludwig,” Science, vol. 44, no. 1133, pp. 363–375, Sep. 1916.
  5. X.-R. Ding et al., “Continuous blood pressure measurement from invasive to unobtrusive: Celebration of 200th birth anniversary of Carl Ludwig,” IEEE J. Biomed. Health Informat., vol. 20, no. 6, pp. 1455–1465, Nov. 2016.

Appendix

Appendix of Retrospectoscope Articles written by Dr. Valentinuzzi: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9666449

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