History of Ecg

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y of ecgA (not so) brief history of electrocardiography.
Find out how electrocuting chickens (1775), getting laboratory assistants to put their hands in buckets of saline (1887), taking the ECG of a horses and then observing their open heart surgey (1912), induction of indiscriminate angina attacks (1931), and hypothermic dogs (1953) have helped to improve our understanding of the ECG as a clinical tool. And why is the ECG labelled PQRST (1895)? 


Sir Thomas Browne, Physician, whilst writing to dispel popular ignorance in many matters, is the first to use the word 'electricity'. Browne calls the attractive force "Electricity, that is, a power to attract strawes or light bodies, and convert the needle freely placed". (He is also the first to use the word 'computer' - referring to people who compute calendars.) Browne, Sir Thomas. Pseudodoxia Epidemica: Or, enquiries Into Very Many Received Tenents, and Commonly Presumed Truths. 1646: Bk II, Ch. 1. London 1660

Otto Von Guericke builds the first static electricity generator. 1662

Jan Swammerdam, a Dutchman, disproves Descartes' mechanistic theory of animal motion by removing the heart of a living frog and showing that it was still able to swim. On removing the brain all movement stopped (which would be in keeping with Descarte's theory) but then, when the frog was dissected and a severed nerve end stimulated with a scalpel the muscles twitched. This proved that movement of a muscle could occur without any connection to the brain and therefore the transmission of 'animal spirits' was not necessary. Swammerdam's ideas were not widely known and his work was not published until after his death. However, he wrote many letters and his friend, Nicolaus Steno, did attack the Cartesian ideas in a lecture in Paris in 1665. Boerhaave published Swammerdam's 'Book of Nature' in the 1730s which was translated into English in 1758. 1668

Stephen Gray, English scientist, distinguishes between conductors and insulators of electricity. He demonstrates the transfer of static electrical charge to a cork ball across 150 metres of wet hemp thread. Later he found that the transfer could be achieved over greater distances by using brass wire. 1745

Edward Bancroft, an American Scientist, suggests that the 'shock' from the Torpedo Fish is electrical rather than mechanical in nature. He showed that the properties of the shock were similar to those from a Leyden jar in that it could be conducted or insulated with appropriate materials. The Torpedo fish and other species were widely known to deliver shocks and were often used in this way for therapeutic reasons. However, electrical theory at the time dictated that electricity would always flow through conductors and diffuse away from areas of high charge to low charge. Since living tissues were known to be conductors it was impossible to imagine how an imbalance of charge could exist within an animal and therefore animals could not use electricity for nerve conduction - or to deliver shocks. Furthermore, 'water and electricity do not mix' so the idea of an 'electric fish' was generally not accepted. Bancroft, E. An essay on the natural history of Guiana, London:T. Becket and P. A. de Hondt, 1769. 1773

The Rev. Mr Sowdon and Mr Hawes, apothecary, report on the surprising effects of electricity in a case report of recovery from sudden death published in the annual report of the newly founded Humane Society now the Royal Humane Society. The Society had developed from 'The Institution for Affording immediate relief to persons apparently dead from drowning'. It was "instituted in the year 1774, to protect the industrious from the fatal consequences of unforseen accidents; the young and inexperienced from being sacrificed to their recreations; and the unhappy victims of desponding melancholy and deliberate suicide; from the miserable consequences of self-destruction." A Mr Squires, of...
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