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Einthoven, Willem

afterwards heart current clinical

[aynt hohven] (1860–1927) Dutch physiologist: introduced clinical electrocardiography.

Einthoven’s father was a physician in Java, where the family lived until he was 10, afterwards settling in Utrecht. He studied medicine there and was appointed professor of physiology at Leiden in 1886. The next year A D Waller (1856–1922) in England showed that a current was generated by the heart, but his recording device was cumbersome and insensitive. Einthoven was interested in physics, and he devised a sensitive string galvanometer. It used a fine wire stretched between the poles of a magnet. When a current passed through the wire it was deflected and an optical system magnified this for recording. Einthoven made electrocardiograms (ECGs) from the chest wall and from contacts on the arms and legs, and described his results from 1903. Soon afterwards, cardiologists gave full accounts of coronary artery disease and Einthoven and others (especially Sir T Lewis (1881–1945) in London) related the ECG tracings to clinical data for this and other heart diseases. This became an important diagnostic method, and Einthoven won the Nobel Prize for 1924. A demonstration to the Royal Society in 1887 by A D Waller, taking an electrocardiograph from a dog. A popular protest that this was cruel (untrue) was not easily calmed.

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