Martha Rogers and the Science of Unitary Human Beings: A Brief Note


Martha E. Rogers was born May 12, 1914, in Dallas, Texas, the eldest of four children. She began her collegiate education at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she studied science from 1931 to 1933. She received her nursing diploma from Knoxville General Hospital School of Nursing in 1936. In 1937 she received a B.S. from George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee. Her other degrees include an M.A. in public health nursing supervision from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, New York in 1945 and an M.P.H. in 1952 and a Sc.D. in 1954, both from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

For 21 years, from 1954 to 1975, she was Professor and Head of the Division of Nursing at New York University. In 1979 she became Professor Emeritus and was an active member of the nursing profession until her death on March 13, 1994.

Rogers’ early nursing practice was in rural public health nursing in Michigan and in visiting nurse supervision, education, and practice in Connecticut. She then established the Visiting Nurse Service of Phoenix, Arizona. Her publications include three books and over 200 articles; she continued to write and publish extensively. She lectured in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Holland, China, Newfoundland, Columbia, and other countries.

Rogers received honorary doctorates in Science, Letters, and Humane Letters from such renowned institutions as Duquesne University, University of San Diego, Iona College, Fairfield University, Mercy College, and Washburn University of Topeka. In addition, she received numerous awards and citations for her contributions and leadership in nursing. She received citations for “Inspiring Leadership in the Field of Intergroup Relations” by Chi Eta Phi Sorority, “In Recognition of Your Outstanding Contribution to Nursing” by New York University. “For Distinguished Service to Nursing” by Teachers College, and many others. She was honored by the many awards, funds, and scholarships that have been established in her name.

A verbal portrait of Rogers might include such descriptive terms as stimulating, idealistic, visionary, prophetic, philosophic, academic, outspoken, humorous, blunt, and ethical. She has been widely recognized and honored for her contributions and leadership in nursing. Her past colleagues consider her one of the most original thinkers in nursing.  Check out Martha Rogers’ Homepage.  <>

The Science of Unitary Human Beings

Washburn University utilizes Dr. Martha Rogers’ Science of Unitary Human Beings as a conceptual framework in its course of study. Conceptual models give students a “hook” to which they can hang theories and evolve abstraction (a lens through which they view the profession of nursing).

Dr. Rogers presented her evolutionary model in 1970 with the publication of An Introduction to the Theoretical Basis of Nursing. This view presented a drastic but attractive way of viewing human interaction and the nursing process. Her concepts are derived from the view of the universe as a collection of open systems of which we interact independently and continuously without causality.

In order to understand the Rogerian framework a set of definitions must be defined as a building block for the larger abstract system.


Energy is irreducible, indivisible and has a definable pattern. Energy is the continuous interaction between a person with the environment. Each individual has their own degree, identity and intensity of interaction with the environment. The combined energy between individual and environment is inseparable and integrated completely.


Both human and environmental systems are open. This also implies that the systems exchange energy continuously and remain open–always. Change affects both systems mutually. People today are different then they had been the day before and can never return to the person they were. Humans do not adapt to their environment but are integral with the environment.


Human beings have unique properties that enable them to be irreducible and indivisible. Though we live in a three-dimensional world we are aware of other dimensions that affect our lives. A three-dimensional world fails to take into account the concept of time. Rogers coined the term pandimensionality to describe a reality without any spatial or time restraints. This better describes a reality without linear, spatial or temporal restraints.


Human energy can be differentiated from environmental energy by its pattern. Patterns cannot be seen but manifestations of the pattern can be observable. Human patterns can be described as a single weave that is dynamic, unpredictable, creative and continuous. An analogy would be a kaleidoscope. As the kaleidoscope is rotated (simulating time) each piece of colored glass falls in an unpredictable manner, with the collection of pieces creating a unique form with equally unique color distribution. There is some order in the turning of the kaleidoscope but the changes of pattern are never predictable or the same. Human patterns are also unpredictable within a degree of order. Each human perceives and interacts with their environment with a different degree of energy.

Principles of Homeodynamics

The principles of homeodynamics postulate a way of perceiving unitary man. Change in the life process in man are predicted to be inseparable from environmental changes and to reflect the mutual and simultaneous interaction between the two at any point space-time. Changes are irreversible, nonrepeatable. They are rhythmical in nature and evidence growing complexity of pattern and organization. Change proceeds by the continuous repatterning of both man and environment by resonating waves. Evidence of conditions under which these principles hold arises out of examination of the real world. Investigations of a range of phenomena are necessary to provide the substantive data which can further the translation of these principles into practical application. Scientific research in nursing is beginning to underwrite the moving boundaries of nursing advances. Maintenance and promotion of health, disease prevention, diagnosis, intervention, and rehabilitation-nursing’s goals-take on added dimensions as theoretical knowledge provides new direction to practice.

Principles of Homeodynamics derive from the abstract system and postulate the nature of change. The principles are listed as follows:

Principle of Resonancy

The continuous change from lower to higher frequency wave patterns in human and environmental fields.

Principle of Helicy

The continuous innovative, unpredictable, increasing diversity of human and environmental field patterns.

Principle of Integrality

The continuous mutual human field and environmental field process.

Source: The text above was formerly available at Washburn University School of Nursing —

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