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Marey type sphygmograph, Paris, France, 1866-1900

This sphygmograph traces an undulating line. The line is a record of the rate, strength and variations of the pulse over time. The first practical, portable version was devised in 1860 by French physician Étienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904). It was strapped to the wrist. This one has a lever. The lever rests on the radial artery in the wrist while the other end scratches the trace onto smoked paper. The paper moved at a uniform rate due to a clockwork mechanism. This sphygmograph was made in Paris by instrument maker Breguet.

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Glossary: pulse

The throbbing of the arteries as blood flows through them. The pulse matches the rate at which the heart is beating.

Glossary: sphygmograph

An instrument used to measure the pulse. It records the strength and rate of a person's pulse. Records are recorded on graph paper.

Glossary: blood pressure

The pressure at which blood is pumped around the body, closely related to the heart rate.