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Marey, Étienne-Jules

paper pulse photography using

[maray] (1830–1904) French physiologist: ingenious inventor of physiological instruments.

Marey’s work as a physiologist gave him scope for his passion for novel mechanical devices. The arterial system of the animal body is a complex arrangement of muscular and elastic tubes; in 1860 Marey devised a portable sphygmograph, which amplified the pulse movement and drew a trace of the pulse wave on smoked paper, and so gave some basic physiological information. He also began in 1876 to study irregularities of heart action, using his polygraph, which recorded the venous pulse and heartbeat simultaneously; these had not been much noticed previously and he found one type in which at varying intervals there are two heartbeats that follow abnormally rapidly (extrasystoles). In the 1890s improved the polygraph, studied heart irregularities further and both related them to disease and showed that some are non-pathological.

In 1868 Marey showed that insect wings follow a basic figure-of-eight movement, by observing a fragment of gold leaf fixed to the wing tip of a fly held under a spotlight, and also by having the wingtip brush against the smoked surface of a rotating cylinder. He saw the value of scientific photography and in 1881 devised the first useful cine camera, which used a ribbon of sensitized paper with ‘stopped motion’ synchronized with a rotating shutter that cut off light as the paper moved forward. By 1890 he was using this to analyse human and animal movements by high-speed photography to slow down rapid movements; and he also invented its converse, time-lapse photography to speed up slow changes such as plant growth. From 1868 he was professor of natural history at the Collège de France, succeeding .

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