The First Inventor of the EKG Machine

Willem Einthoven won a Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize Physiology or medicine in 1924 was awarded to Willem Einthoven for his discovery of the mechanism of the electrocardiogram

Born on May 21, 1860, in Semarang, Java Dutch East Indies Now Indonesia. Died September 1927, in Leiden, the Netherlands. He was the First Inventor of the electrocardiogram. People back in the 1800’s were found to have Atrial Fibrillation or an irregular heartbeat or rhythm.

Willem Einthoven went to medical school in Utrecht and received his doctor’s degree in 1885. The following year he was made a professor in Leiden, where he worked for the rest of his life. Willem Einthoven married in 1886 and had four children.

The Latter half

In the latter half of the 1800s doctors discovered that heartbeats create weak electrical currents on the body’s surface (arrhythmia). A diagram showing how these currents vary (an electrocardiogram or ECG) provides a picture of how a heart is functioning.

Willem Einthoven developed doctors’ ability to depict the heart and its parts, functions, and illnesses using ECGs. One key to this progress was the string galvanometer, which precisely measures tiny currents, constructed by Willem Einthoven in 1903.

First inventor the electrocardiogram (ECG)

The First EKG Invention

Einthoven’s invention of the electrocardiogram mechanism

Einthoven’s invention is arguably one of the most important medical discoveries of the 20th century and his Nobel Prize in Medicine, awarded in 1924, is testament to his vital contribution to medical science.

Most of us have had an ECG, or electrocardiogram, at one time or another – an ECG records the rate and regularity of our heartbeats. Apart from monitoring the health of our hearts, it can also diagnose the size and position of the four cardiac chambers, reveal any blockages or damage to the heart, and monitor the effectiveness of any drugs and devices used in the treatment of the heart.

The Inventor Behind the electrocardiogram

For the three years between 1889 and 1902, Einthoven struggled with the design of the electrocardiogram, but finally he succeeded in publishing the first electrocardiogram reading.

In 1903, this was further enhanced by Einthoven’s invention of the string galvanometer, a device that precisely measures a heartbeat’s tiny currents. The galvanometer was made up of strings of fine quartz filaments coated with silver. The strings were stretched and subjected to a powerful magnetic field.

As an electrical current passes through the filaments, the magnetic field created by the current causes the string to move. A bright light is shone onto the string, causing a shadow to be cast on a moving roll of photographic paper. This shadow forms a continuous curve that tracks the movement of the string. The original machine weighed nearly 600 pounds, required powerful electromagnets that had to be water-cooled and was operated by 5 people. Tightening or loosening the strings adjusted the sensitivity of the galvanometer.

Einthoven was then able to begin transmitting electrocardiogram results from the local hospital to his laboratory, and in that same year, 1903, the first electrocardiogram readings were recorded from the heart of a healthy man.

Willem in 1885
Willem in 1885

A Piece of His Biography

Willem Einthoven attended medical school in Utrecht and gained his doctor’s degree in 1885. A year later, at the tender age of 26, he was made Professor of Physiology at Leiden, where he worked for the rest of his life. He married his cousin Frederique Jeanne Louise de Vogel at the age of 26 and had four children with her.

After his unique invention and the development of the string galvanometer, Einthoven went on to document the electrocardiographic features of a number of human heart disorders. Later in his life, he spent many years focusing his attention on the study of acoustics, particularly heart sounds.
Einthoven died at the age of 67.

The First EKG Invented
The First EKG Invented

An Era in Time-The First Electrocardiogram

Muirhead Records the First Electrocardiogram

 in Man

Muirhead in London recorded the first electrocardiogram (ECG) in man in 1869 or 1870 with a siphon instrument and Waller in 1887 with a capillary electrometer. Einthoven’s string galvanometer was a breakthrough Electrocardiogram in Man.

What instrument did Alexander Muirhead use to record the human electrocardiogram?

Alexander Muirhead, an electrical engineer and pioneer of telegraphy, may have a recorded a human electrocardiogram at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London but this is disputed. If he had, he is thought to have used a Thompson Siphon Recorder.

Elizabeth Muirhead, his wife, wrote a book of his life and claimed that he refrained from publishing his own work for fear of misleading others. Elizabeth Muirhead. Alexander Muirhead 1848 – 1920. Oxford, Blackwell: privately printed 1926.

 How were recordings sent to the electrocardiogram room?

The recordings were sent from the wards to the electrocardiogram room by a system of cables. There is a great picture of a patient having an electrocardiogram recorded with the caption “The electrodes in use”. James WB, Williams HB. The electrocardiogram in clinical medicine.

The First Patented Pacemaker

The 1st Pacemaker
The 1st Pacemaker

Dr Albert Hyman patents the first ‘artificial cardiac pacemaker‘ which stimulates the heart by using a transthoracic needle. His aim was to produce a device that was small enough to fit in a doctor’s bag and stimulate the right atrial area of the heart with a suitably insulated needle.

His experiments were on animals. His original machine was powered by a crankshaft (it was later prototyped by a German company but was never successful).

“By March 1, 1932, the artificial pacemaker had been used about 43 times, with a successful outcome in 14 cases.” It was not until 1942 that a report of its successful short-term use in Stokes-Adams attacks was presented. Hyman AS. Resuscitation of the stopped heart by intracardial therapy. Arch Intern Med. 1932; 50:283

First ECG
First ECG

Electrocardiogram taken with Einthoven’s original string galvanometer by Walter Miles of Boston,0618,1920

We’ve come a long way…

EKG Nowadays
EKG Nowadays

Performing an Electrocardiogram in the Hospital >

Today we have the option to get a wireless EKG (for A-Fib) right inside of our homes

Your phone is the tracker with app Download

EKG by AliveCor
KardiaMobile EKG for home Use

This article about EKGs started in 1903 and ended up in 2022. Just shows you how far we really have come in our technology. I think we could be quite a bit farther in preventing Atrial Fibrillation as it’s been around for as long as cavemen probably, or back into the 1700’s.

For more information on A-Fib, go to Steve S Ryan

He’s cured of A-Fib as he it early and the procedure, “Ablation” worked for him. He is a winner of USA Best Book Awards in 2014 for his “Beat Your A-Fib” book. It’s a must read.

I hope you have enjoyed a little bit of history, if you’d like to read more on A-Fib and what exercise is the very best for it, go to my other site at

If you’d like to leave a comment or just have a question, please feel free to leave it below.

Wishing you all the Best!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *