The first meeting of our “unusual” society, the ASAIO, was held on June 5, 1955 in Atlantic City, New Jersey after a calling together of a small but hardy group of some 12–15 pioneers. Some people, in questioning the choice of Atlantic City for this first meeting, have cynically called it the beginning of gambling in that seaside resort. It was the first medical society, as far as we know, formed by scientists who were devoted to research in, and the clinical applications of, artificial organs. Only the most idealistic dreamers believed that it could be successful or that it could grow to its present proportions. However, its founding has been followed by the formation of similar societies in many countries and now an International Society, the International Society for Artificial Internal Organs. The ASAIO is proud to be one of the first American medical societies to include a significant number of engineers, physicists, mathematicians, and other nonphysician scientists as both active members and officers of what was originally conceived of as a “medical society.” In many of the early business meetings, discussions revolved around the choice of the title The American Society for Artificial Internal Organs, which was, I believe, originally suggested by the founder, Dr. Peter Salisbury, and seemed to stick on the glue of continued controversy. Very often at the early business meetings, someone would suggest that the name of the society be changed since the generality of “artificial organs” opened one up to rather ribald enjoinders. Most people felt that these jokes were unjustified and that the confining of artificial organs to “internal melieu” was sufficient protection against such lowbrow humor. However, the discussion continued in meeting after meeting and usually was stopped when someone would stand up and propose that the title be changed to the Society for Open Hearts and Shutdown Kidneys. This was not nearly enough to satisfy the broad breadth of specific interests that occupied the members, their students, and young scientists. In 1997, the current editor and deputy editor of the ASAIO Journal commented on the “near term opportunities” for artificial organs, and their list included implantable hearts and left ventricle; hybrid artificial kidney, lung, and liver; bowel substitution for kidney; implantable insulin and heparin pumps; artificial bladder, ureter, stomach, and rectum; implantable neurostimulators; and tissue engineered skin, bone, cartilage, and muscle. 1 In fact, the 1998 abstract form, placed immediately adjacent to our logo, included a classification that was lettered alphabetically from A to V and included biomaterials, biosensors, hybrid organs, drug delivery, prostheses, artificial liver, pancreas, and medical implant science. Apparently, they intended to save the last three letters, X, Y, Z, for new ventures yet to be conceived. Perhaps Y could stand for artificial youth.
At some point in the early history of the society, there was a suggestion that we should have a search for an appropriate logo that would instantly identify the breadth and identity of this unique organization.
A few months after one of our spring meetings, I was mulling over that challenge and the history of the problem with changing our name and the realization that a logo would have to represent a great many significant fields.
The musings on this problem followed me to a brief vacation at our cottage in Southern Shores, NC. While lying on the beach fairly early in the morning, which of course looks east to the Atlantic Ocean and catches the early sun at a low angle as it comes out of the sea, I made the observation that if I closed my deep set eyes at a certain angle to the rising sun, I could actually see the red cells moving through small veins and capillaries in my retina. The little circles could actually be seen to stick for an instant wherever there was a bifurcation of a capillary and then to sort of float on and move in their course through the circulation. I was quite bemused by this observation that one could see one’s own red cells in transit and extended the thought that maybe this was the answer to our often-discussed name change. I imagined that if there were to be a new name, it would have to be sufficiently all embracing and sufficiently generalized to pertain to what it is that we stand for and what it is that we do. I then imagined what it would be like to follow one of those little circles toward the central organs that are supplied by the circulation and that really establish which organs are vital to survival. Following that, it occurred to me that if we looked at those organs as a surrealist artist might, they would be so central and so vital that they could be represented by a sun toward which my little red cell circles were hurrying.
Armed with this inspiration, I went into the house and set about to paint an artist’s conception of all this with acrylic on canvas, indicating a blood vessel going in the direction of a surrealist sun. This painting hung on the wall of our cottage in Southern Shores for many years and it was later taken to our home in Virginia, where it hung in the children’s hallway. About that time someone asked me to write about the history of the logo, but I couldn’t find the painting and assumed it had absconded with one of my children.
Recently, however, the painting was unearthed in a closet and has been photographed in color (Figure 1) by my daughter-in-law, Dana Anderson Schreiner. After several business meetings requesting the formation of a committee to choose a logo, a committee was formed and was chaired, according to my memory, by the late Dr. E. Lovell (Stretch) Becker, a former President. I thought about doing a line drawing equivalent of this painting and submitting it in the competition for a logo. Stretch Becker was a very close friend, was president of the National Kidney Foundation, and appointed me as the chairman of the legislative committee to seek what is now known as the ESRD Legislation. He would frequently stop at our house when visiting in Washington with Mr. Charles Plant, our legislative representative, who was a major reason for our success with the ESRD Legislation. On one visit, I showed Stretch Becker the painting and my crude attempts at a line drawing and he told me that he had solicited the help of a commercial artist who was a logo specialist and was trying to find a solution to the same conundrum we all had of how to be specific and yet at the same time general enough to encompass all of the myriad organs at work in artificial organs research. He took a photograph and my drawing to the artist with whom he was working. The explanation of my painting appealed to the commercial artist and the report that came back from Stretch was that he didn’t see any need to design a new logo. He thought this was perfect but that the sense of perspective and depth of the blood vessel pointing to the surrealist sun as the collection of organs could be considerably enhanced by simply making every other circle radiating out from the sun darker or lighter in contrast to its adjacent neighbor. This had a remarkable effect of transforming the picture into a tube up which the eye was searching for a central and general focal point. This was exactly in tune with my imagination that day on the beach. We had him draw his lines to illustrate the depth perception, and we officially adopted that as the logo of the ASAIO (Figure 2). Now you know the rest of the story.
1. Friedman EA, Beyer MM. ASAIO’s vital role in the coming bionic age. ASAIO J 43: M371, 1997.