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Dead Horses, Rubber and the Sphygmograph

Kristina Müller
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Even if measuring blood pressure is one of the most common examinations, most physicians do not know how medicine achieved the capability to determine exactly what is happening inside our veins.

Like most other modern medical technologies, devices for blood pressure measurement depend on the research of doctors from numerous countries that lived centuries ago.

The knowledge about the fact that blood circulates in our body, recorded in 1628 by English physician William Harvey, can be considered as a basis for the following findings on blood pressure measurement. Almost 100 years later, in 1713, Stephen Hales conducted the first – rather bloody and deathly – blood pressure measurement: He inserted a long glass tube into a strapped horse’s artery to observe the rising level of blood inside the tube. He published about this invasive catheterisation method in 1733.

Finally, in the 19th century, with the auscultatory and oscillometric method, techniques were introduced to determine blood pressure more sustainably: German physiologist Karl von Vierordt, Austrian Pathologist Karl Ritter von Basch and French physician and inventor Etienne-Jules Marey developed different types of the sphygmograph (meaning “pulse writer”). This apparatus, attached to the patient’s wrist, could document the pulse graphically and determine the blood pressure as graphic amplitudes.

Dead Horses, Rubber and the Sphygmograph
The Russian doctor Nikolai Korotkoff

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