The time required (tlim) to produce fatigue of the diaphragm was determined in three normal seated subjects, breathing through a variety of high alinear, inspiratory resistances. During each breath in all experimental runs the subject generated a transdiaphragmatic pressure (Pdi) which was a predetermined fraction of his maximum inspiratory Pdi (Pdimax) at functional residual capacity. The breathing test was performed until the subject was unable to generate this Pdi. The relationship between Pdi/Pdimax and tlim was curvilinear so that when Pdi/Pdimax was small tlim increased markedly for little changes in Pdi/Pdimax. The value of Pdi/Pdimax that could be generated indefinitely (Pdicrit) was around 0.4. Hypoxia appeared to have no influence on Pdicrit, but probably led to a reduction in tlim at Pdi greater than Pdicrit for equal rates of energy consumption. Insofar as the behavior of the diaphragm reflects that of other respiratory muscles it appears that quite high inspiratory loads can be tolerated indefinitely. However, when the energy consumption of the respiratory muscles exceeds a critical level, fatigue should develop. This may be a mechanism of respiratory failure in a variety in a variety of lung diseases.