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A sphygmograph is an instrument consisting of a lever, the short end of which rests on the radial artery at the wrist, and the long end being provided with a stylet that records on a moving ribbon of paper the movements, form, and force of the arterial pulse[1].


The German physiologist Karl von Vierordt invented[2] the sphygmograph in 1854 after looking for a way to measure arterial pressure non-invasively. Previous apparatuses for measuring arterial pressure required perforating the desired artery to measure the blood pressure directly. Here is a drawing[3] of Vierordt’s sphygmograph:

Here is an animation of Vierordt’s sphygmograph in action:

Here is an original[2] sphygmogram taken by Karl von Vierordt’s sphygmograph:

Here is a photograph[4] of an improved sphygmograph devised by the Scottish homepath Robert Ellis Dudgeon in 1882; the working principles remain the same:


Here is a portrait[5] of Karl von Vierordt: