AF space medicine pioneer showcases book at Brooks

  • Published
  • By Rudy Purificato
  • 311th Human Systems Wing

Internationally acclaimed cardiologist and former syndicated columnist Dr. Lawrence Lamb added another chapter to Brooks City-Base history May 8 during a special presentation and book signing held, respectively, at Hangar 9 and the museum annex dedicated to flight medicine.
Appropriately standing in front of the President John F. Kennedy exhibit at Hangar 9, Lamb presented his latest book, Inside the Space Race - A Space Surgeon's Diary, to Eric Stephens, 311th Human Systems Wing director. 

A friend and advisor to JFK, Lamb selected a historic photograph of the late President for his book cover in tribute to the latter's "New Frontier" vision for America's exploration of space. The cover photograph shows Kennedy giving his famous "cap over the wall" speech on space exploration at Brooks AFB on November 21, 1963, one day before he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. 

"There is a letter in the book from JFK to Lyndon Johnson asking what they could do to beat the Russians in the space race," Lamb said, crediting LBJ for his major role in promoting America's space program. Lamb was also LBJ's cardiologist and friend. 

The 80-year-old Kansas-born physician-scientist became an eye witness and major contributor to history during the early days of America's space program based on his reputation as a medical pioneer. Lamb created the world's first Centralized Electrocardiographic Library when the Air Force established in 1957 the requirement for an electrocardiogram in all flying personnel. "There was an epidemic of heart attacks in SAC (Strategic Air Command) pilots whose average age was 37," recalls Lamb about the pervasive problem that prompted a change in Air Force medical screening policy.
Lamb joined the U.S. Air Force School of Aviation Medicine staff in 1955 at Randolph AFB and later served as Professor of Clinical Medicine at the school when it moved to Brooks AFB in 1959. "I came here to set up the consultation service to evaluate flying personnel," said Lamb, referring to the USAFSAM organization located in Building 100 that has immeasurably contributed to flying safety. Among Lamb's many aviation health and safety contributions are his investigations involving pilot loss of consciousness, medically called syncope. 

Lamb's aviation medicine research led to pioneering work supporting the Air Force's man-in-space program and support to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He contributed to the selection and medical evaluation of space crews, including both the Air Force Space Pilots Group and NASA's Project Mercury astronauts. 

His expertise in vectorcardiography, developed to help identify cardiovascular problems in Air Force flying personnel, was also used during a pivotal examination of space chimp Enos following the primate's sub-orbital flight in 1959. Lamb's evaluation of the animal's medical problem confirmed that weightlessness had not adversely affected the primate's heart, paving the way for John Glenn's historic flight as America's first astronaut to orbit the Earth.
Since leaving Brooks in 1966, Lamb has been a best-selling author and international lecturer. He also is one of the world's leading authorities on electrocardiography. Lamb published the first of his eight books in 1965, a medical textbook on electrocardiography and vectorcardiography. Among his many trade books are Your Heart and How to Live With It, and What You Need to Know About Food and Cooking for Health, published by Viking Press in 1969 and 1973, respectively. These books were among the first ever published about the prevention of heart disease through diet, exercise and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Lamb is best remembered for his syndicated column "Ask Dr. Lamb" that was published from 1970-1994 in 700 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada, including the San Antonio Express-News. He has also appeared on the CBS Evening News, the Mike Douglas Show and To Tell The Truth. 

Lamb's Brooks visit was arranged by Shelia Klein, executive director of the Brooks Heritage Foundation, whose headquarters in the U.S. Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation Museum served as the venue for the book signing session. 

Lamb's new book is available at the Hangar 9 gift shop at Brooks City-Base and on His next book signing will be May 23 from 5-7 p.m. at The Twig, an Alamo Heights book store.