Biography of Dr M. J. Karvonen (1918-2009)
It is difficult to overvalue the impact of Dr M. J. Karvonen upon physiology, medical science, sports medicine, cardiovascular epidemiology, and public health. He left his profound mark at all levels of academic, institutional, and public activities. Dr M. J. Karvonen was venerated and esteemed for his profound insight, his great moral qualities, and his limitless good will and humor.
Dr M. J. Karvonen is the founder of cardiovascular epidemiology in Finland. He graduated from the University of Helsinki and received his MD in 1945. He started his academic career at the Department of Physiology of the University of Helsinki and got his PhD degree at the Cambridge University in 1950. His first research was conducted in the fields of work and sports physiology. In 1950, Dr M. J. Karvonen became Director of the Department of Physiology at the Institute of Occupational Health and soon was appointed to the position of Director General of the same Institute.
From 1956 to 1966 Karvonen served as Chief Physician of the Finnish Air Forces. From 1974 to 1978 he was Chief Physician of the Finnish Army. He retired from the Army as Major General. Then he was Visiting Professor at the University of Dortmund, and Consultant to the WHO Division of Cardiovascular Diseases. Dr M. J. Karvonen received Honorary Doctoral degrees from several universities and was honorary member of numerous scientific societies.
In 1957 Dr M. J. Karvonen performed his remarkable research of heart rate reserve that became a brilliant example in the science of training. He discovered that during exercise the work must be performed at the correct level of intensity, frequency, and duration. Dr M. J. Karvonen is well-known to researchers in workout medicine and sports practitioners all over the world owing to the Karvonen Formula that helps calculate effective workout heart rate. Dr M. J. Karvonen proposed an exercise intensity of between 60 – 75% of maximum heart rate reserve to get functional benefits for the cardiovascular fitness. The extensive and constant use of Karvonen Formula the world over is a deserved tribute to Dr M. J. Karvonen’s research based on simple and reliable methods interpreted creatively and critically.
Dr M. J. Karvonen’s revolutionary work in cardiovascular epidemiology started in the middle of the 1950s, when he carried out the first epidemiological investigations of coronary heart disease. In 1959, Dr M. J. Karvonen began the famous experimental research of coronary disease prevention by dietary modifications. These important works created necessary basis for prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Karvonen’s activity was based on deep knowledge and understanding of physiology. This power, joined with his charismatic personality, allowed him to explore numerous spheres of science and to construct bridges between many disciplines and people. Karvonen was a valued scientist, teacher, preceptor, and manager in sports, training, physical education and nutrition; in clinical and applied physiology; in occupational, aviation, and military medicine.