History of blood gas analysis. V. Oxygen measurement

J Clin Monit. 1986 Jul;2(3):174-89. doi: 10.1007/BF01620550.


The first biologic use of a platinum cathode for oxygen monitoring was reported in 1938 by Blinks and Skow, who was studying photosynthesis. Their report led to the tissue oxygen studies of Davies, Brink, and Bronk. Clark, by covering cathode and anode with a polyethylene membrane, changed the polarographic cathode from a sensor of oxygen availability by diffusion to a measure of oxygen tension (PO2) in the solution and thereby facilitated an enormous expansion of the study of the respiratory physiology of blood oxygen after 1956. Clark's electrode led to the development of the present commercial blood gas systems that measure pH, carbon dioxide tension (PCO2), and PO2 and calculate many derived variables. Variations on Clark's electrode were designed for in vivo catheter-tip recording; gas phase oxygen monitoring; determining oxygen content of blood by releasing hemoglobin-bound oxygen and measuring PO2; and determining oxygen consumption in cell cultures (thus replacing Warburg manometry). By reducing the cathode diameter, Staub and others eliminated the need for stirring the blood samples. Concurrent research with amperometric or polarographic oxygen measurement led Hersch to develop the means of determining oxygen content by coulometry in large cells that consumed all the injected oxygen. Methods of applying noninsulating, but protein impermeable, membranes to cathodes and of recessing cathodes into glass permitted measurement of PO2 in tissues and fluids with microelectrodes.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Blood Gas Analysis* / methods
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Oximetry
  • Oxygen / blood*


  • Oxygen