The Tradition of Protecting the Sick and Wounded


The American Red Cross has been one of the nation’s premier humanitarian organizations since 1881, and it was established in this country by the one and only Clara Barton. During the Civil War, Barton was known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” and allowed to bring her voluntary services and medical supplies to the scenes of battle and field hospitals. After the war, President Lincoln directed families to her to search for the missing. She and her assistants received and answered over 63,000 letters and identified over 22,000 missing men. (The Red Cross eventually established a tracing service, one of the organization’s most valued activities today.)

Later, Barton established the American branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross and fought successfully for the ratification of the First Geneva Convention by the US, which protects the sick and wounded, prisoners of war, and civilians. In 1884, the American Red Cross proposed an amendment to include relief for victims of natural disasters in peacetime, which became known as the “American Amendment” to the Geneva Treaty of 1864.

By the time World War II ended in September 1945, nearly every family in America contained a member who had either served as a Red Cross volunteer, made contributions of money or blood, or was a recipient of Red Cross services.
Today, American Red Cross members and volunteers have been an essential part of our nation’s response to war, natural disaster, and other human suffering.


AMONG ALL OF THE EARTH’S CREATURES, humans alone are the only ones who shed tears as a product of our emotions. These types of tears are known as psychogenic tears. Many mammals shed tears, especially in response to pain and to keep their eyes moist and healthy. However, scientists who have observed animals up close and over extended periods of time have not been able to show that animals cry tears from emotion alone. So shedding tears as an emotional reaction is a uniquely human characteristic.

One modern theory for why humans shed psychogenic tears is that crying triggers social bonding and human connection. Crying communicates feelings of distress, frustration, or sadness, and many tout the cathartic effect of “a good cry.” Surveys estimate that 85 percent of women and 73 percent of men report feeling better after shedding tears. Some scientists believe that chemicals build up in the body during times of elevated stress so emotional crying helps rid the body of toxins and waste products related to stress.


And why are we sometimes moved to tears of joy or from a good, hearty laugh? A series of studies out of Yale University looked at the expression of a positive experience with a negative emotion, and vice versa, termed as “dimorphous expressions”. Showing two expressions for one emotion is a signal to those around you that you’re feeling an intense emotion. Another reason why people might have these reactions is to get their emotions in check. The scientists behind the study theorize that those who experience “tears of joy” may be more emotionally expressive overall.

Crying is a part of what makes us human, and how people express emotions can depend on cultural and psychological factors.


AS YOU READ THIS, SCIENTISTS ARE working to bring humankind closer to a mission to Mars. Back in January, six astronaut-like crew members entered a geodesic dome atop Mauna Loa, located 8,200 feet above sea level on the Big Island of Hawaii as part of an eight month research study of human behavior and performance. The NASA funded project known as HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) aims to help determine the individual and team requirements for long-duration space exploration missions including travel to Mars.

HI-SEAS Mission V crew will perform exploration tasks such as geological fieldwork and life systems management. The isolated and confined conditions of the mission, including 20-minutes of delayed communication and partial self-sufficiency, have been designed to be similar to those of a planetary surface exploration mission. Daily routines include food preparation from only shelf-stable ingredients, exercise, research, and fieldwork aligned with NASA’s planetary exploration expectations. Working closely under the watchful eye of a research team and experienced mission control, the crew will participate in studies.

The primary behavioral research includes a shared social behavioral task for team building, continuous monitoring of face-to-face interactions with socio-metric badges, a virtual reality team-based collaborative exercise to predict individual and team behavioral health and performance, and multiple stress, cognitive countermeasure, and monitoring studies.