Resuscitation great. Willem Einthoven: the development of the human electrocardiogram

Resuscitation. 2008 Mar;76(3):325-8. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2007.10.014. Epub 2007 Dec 31.


The electrocardiogram is one of the most commonly used diagnostic tools in healthcare. This ingenious device was developed and created in the early 1900s by Willem Einthoven, MD, PhD after studying the mechanisms of electromagnetism and Waller's capillary electrometer. Einthoven dedicated most of his research and clinical activities to improve the early versions of the electrical current recording medical devices. Einthoven's most notable invention was the string galvanometer which we now know as the electrocardiogram. Although the idea of using the string galvanometer as a diagnostic tool faced opposition by scientists and physicians of his time, he remained convinced of the potential of his machine to improve patient care. Einthoven's string galvanometer subsequently became the standard diagnostic tool for recognition and differentiation of heart conditions through the interpretation of cardiac waves, and has become standard practice in the field of resuscitation. In 1924, Einthoven received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his development of the string galvanometer.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Electrocardiography / history*
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Nobel Prize
  • Physiology / history

Personal name as subject

  • Willem Einthoven