About Biotensegrity
(For links and other resources, go to the bottom of the page)
Biotensegrity proposes that all biological life is structured tensegrally, characterized by discontinuous compression and continuous tension, also known as "floating compression" or "tensegrity,” and that therefore, models of biologic life will be more valid and useful if they are based on tensegrity structures and principles. It follows that the unexamined convention of using continuous compression structures and linear machine mechanics to model biological life is sub-optimal and may even be misleading.
The place to start if you want to learn more about biotensegrity, is
the website of Dr. Stephen Levin, biotensegrity.com, who originated the theory after searching for a better way to explain and model biologic structure, movement and stability than by following the continuous compression models presented to him in medical school.

Use of the Term
Dr. Levin chose the term biotensegrity for his concept of tensegrity in biology.
We respect and follow his spelling: no caps, no hyphens. Thus, is is a common noun, not a proper noun.
We also respect and follow Levin's usage of the term. It is a scientific concept, a useful model and may meet the standards for a scientific theory. Biotensegrity may inspire other ideas, methods and concepts, but only biotensegrity as defined by Levin is biotensegrity.
Of models, Stephen Hawking writes:
"A model is a good model if it one, is elegant, two, contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements, three, agrees with and explains all existing observations, four, makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disapprove or falsify the model, if they are not born out."

(For links and other resources, go to the bottom of the page)

History of Biotensegrity
As an orthopedic and spine surgeon, his experience working with actual living bodies was at odds with the teaching he’d received. Searching for a better model than the body as a building or a machine (since the math and physics were just not adding up), he went downtown to the mall and visited the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, thinking that the huge skeletons of the dinosaurs may reveal some clues about the structure of life. He spent several months collaborating with curator Nicholas Hotton III in search of an answer.
Frustrated but determined, he left the museum one Spring day and sat on a bench along the mall. Looking to his right, he saw the Washington Monument, a magnificent continuous compression obelisk. This was the dominant model at the time for the human spine: upright, with one brick (vertebra) stacked solidly upon the next.
The problem is, the Washington Monument cannot do a summersault. It would shear and fall apart. Plus that, he knew from surgical experience that our bones never actually touch; they don’t press on each other at all.
Nothing about the massive organic structures he’d seen inside the museum seemed to relate to the model of a building. There had to be a better answer.
Looking off to the left, he could see the Hirshhorn Museum, which had opened the year before, in 1974. Suddenly it hit him: that sculpture he’d seen when he visited the museum after it opened--the tower rising up some 60 feet with huge metal bars floating in a web of cables—this was the model--this was the answer to his question.

In that moment, Levin says, he knew it. He knew this was right. Kenneth Snelson’s Needle Tower could work as a model for how life builds itself.
He walked across the mall to visit the sculpture once again, and a new path of study opened before him. He contacted Snelson, and started reading everything he could about tensegrity and building his won models.
Following the scientific process, for the next few decades he tried to do everything he could to understand tensegrity structures and to prove that this model was
not the answer he’d been seeking. But the deeper he delved, the more alignment between biology and tensegrity he discovered.
Eventually Dr. Stephen Levin coined the term biotensegrity to name the concept he’d pioneered.
Today, more than forty years after that day in 1975 when Dr. Levin had his “Eureka” moment, the insight of biotensegrity has been further substantiated by the work of Dr. Donald Ingber and scores of other scientists, and has found its way into textbooks and science courses.

Links and other Resources on Biotensegrity
Graham Scarr's book Biotensegrity Dr. Scarr wrote the first-ever book on biotensegrity, in close association with Dr. Levin. Scarr's website is a reliable and valuable resource, and includes an excellent and extensive Resources page.
Daniele Claude's book DC Martin, co-founder of the original BIG, has spent countless hours in consultation with Dr. Levin. Her expression of the concept is informed by her degree in physics, and her extensive experience in
Living Biotensegrity: Interplay of Tension and Compression in the Body

Joanne Avison's book the biotensegrity sections were reviewed by Dr. Levin before publication and Avison spent many hours in direct consultation with Levin to assure accurate representation of his work.
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