How pioneering doctor Willem Einthoven transformed modern medicine and won a Nobel Prize

Conrad Duncan@theconradduncan
Tuesday 21 May 2019 07:45
news

Dutch doctor and physiologist Willem Einthoven has become the latest star of Google’s Doodle series to celebrate what would have been his 159th birthday.

Einthoven invented the electrocardiogram (ECG) – a device which is used to measure the electric activity of the heart – and received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for it in 1924.

The device works by attaching sensors to the skin which are used to detect the electrical signals produced by the heart each time it beats.

These measurements are then shown as a graph either electronically or printed on paper.

While Einthoven may not be a household name, you’ll recognise the dancing green or blue dots and familiar beeping noises from an ECG recording that are regularly seen in hospitals.

There has been growing concern over the use of do not resuscitate orders during the coronavirus outbreak(Getty Images)

Einthoven, who was the son of a doctor, was born on 21 May 1860 in Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies) and moved to the Netherlands when he was young boy.

He lived there for the rest of his life, during which he became a professor at the University of Leiden and a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He died in 1927, just three years after winning the Nobel Prize.

Einthoven made his first clinical ECG recording in 1902 and was convinced that the device could be incredibly useful to doctors and patients.

He wrote in 1906 that he believed the ECG would help doctors “to give relief to the suffering of our patients.”

Nowadays, the device is so widely-used that you can find a version of them in the Apple Watch.

Einthoven’s invention has helped countless patients over the years and some people were excited to see one of the heroes of medicine getting the credit he deserved.

Although the medical community was initially sceptical about the effectiveness of the ECG, the impact of Einthoven goes without question and has been massively influential in modern medicine and how we approach diagnosis and patient care.

More: Georgios Papanikolaou: How the medical pioneer saved the lives of thousands of people with his groundbreaking work

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