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How Willem Einthoven gave doctors a window on the heart

If a doctor has ever placed electrodes on your skin to record a trace of your heartbeat, you have Willem Einthoven to thank. His invention, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has remained in use for over 100 years, and is still one of the most widely used diagnostic tools in medicine.

He became interested in the electrical activity of the heart after seeing a demonstration of a crude electrocardiogram device developed by Augustus Waller, the British physiologist. It was based on the capillary electrometer, one of the first instruments to detect electric waves, consisting of a thin glass cylinder filled with mercury and sulphuric acid.

Waller’s device did not produce very accurate…

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Last Updated : Wednesday, June 29, 2022