Herbert Lissner

Herbert Lissner
Death date
Associated organizations
Wayne State University
Fields of study


Herbert Lissner was one of the pioneers in the field of biomedical engineering and a founding father of biomechanics.

Lissner was born in 1908. He received a B.S. in General Engineering in 1930 and M.S. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in 1934. Lissner taught mechanical engineering at Wayne State University and most of his major research was done there. He worked in collaboration with the neurosurgeon Elisha Gurdjian, who worked at the university hospital. They worked on head injury experiments by dropping metal balls onto dry human skulls and tried to determine the levels of concussion that accompanied fractures. Their main project was to determine the effect of mechanical forces on biological systems. They hypothesized that head accelerations causing cadaveric skull fracture could be used to infer the onset of concussion. They worked together from 1939 to the 1960s and their research led to the development of a concussion tolerance curve in 1960. It is now known as the Wayne State Tolerance Curve (WSTC).

Lissner established the Bioengineering Center at Wayne State University. In 1963, this Centre was chartered by the Board of Governors of WSU and Lissner was appointed as its first director. The Center became the leading institute in studying skull fractures and used human cadavers to do automobile safety tests. Apart from being the Coordinator of the Biomechanics Research Center, Lissner also served as the Chairman of the Department of Engineering Mechanics. Lissner published more than fifty books and articles, especially on the skeletal structure of the human body and on impact forces that cause bone fractures or nerve and muscle damage. He also published on deformation of bones and nerves. His works were published in prestigious journals like the Journal of Neurosurgery. One of the famous books he co-authored was the Biomechanics of Human Motion, which is studied even today. His work is also used today in the field of sports injury research.

Lissner died in 1965. The Wayne State University organizes the Herbert R. Lissner Research Day in his honor and on this day exceptional ongoing biomedical research work is presented. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers awards its top recognition in Biomedical Engineering in Lissner’s honor and the award is named the Herbert R. Lissner Medal.

Further Reading

Textbook of Sports Medicine: Basic Science and Clinical Aspects of Sports Injury and Physical Activity, p.638