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Early Use of X-ray Machines and Electrocardiographs at the Pennsylvania Hospital

John H. Dirckx, MD
JAMA. 1986;256(11):1444. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380110050018.
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To the Editor.—  Dr Howell's1 article on the early use of the x-ray machine and electrocardiograph at the Pennsylvania Hospital provides valuable data on the dawn of technology in American institutional medicine. Although Dr Howell chose to emphasize nontechnical aspects of the subject, a few historical notes on electrocardiography may add perspective to his remarks.The electrocardiograph as manufactured in 1921 was an enormous machine weighing at least 350 kg and occupying 4 m2 or more of floor space. Only standard limb leads (I, II, and III) were recorded. The usual practice was for the subject, seated, to immerse both arms and the left leg in jars of saline, which served as electrodes. These facts probably explain why, at the Pennsylvania Hospital, a separate room was set aside to house the first electrocardiograph.Then, as now, the essential element in the electrocardiograph was a galvanometer, so arranged as


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