Etienne Jules Marey was a French physician and physiologist with major contributions to the field of cardiovascular physiology. He is remembered as one of the most outstanding physiologists of the 19th century.
Marey's major research interest was the development of new instruments in the graphic recordings of physiological events. In 1860, he significantly improved Vierordt's sphygmograph in a way that the entire device could be attached to the patient's arm. Marey used also a stylus that recorded the tracing of the pulse beat on a smoked surface but he replaced the balance mechanism with a spring.
Using this device, physicians were able to obtain graphics of the arterial pulse with fine detail.
Marey's first publication on the study of the pulse with sphygmograph appeared in 1860. He then published his major textbook, "Physiologie medicale de la circulation du sang," which became a reference book in cardiovascular physiology in 1863. An updated and expanded version of this book entitled, "La circulation du sang a l'etat physiologique et dans les maladies", appeared in 1881.
This new generation of sphymograph was increasingly used in clinical practice and by many investigators in their research studies on cardiac arrhythmias during the second half of 19th century. Marey extended the use of sphygmograph in patients with cardiovascular diseases, particularly those with valvular heart disease. He investigated the effects of valvular regurgitation and stenosis on the arterial pulse. He insisted on the irregular character of the pulse in patients with mitral valve disease. The chapter of his monograph on the application of sphygmograph in patients with mitral and tricuspid valve disease is displayed here.
He also published the first recorded tracing of irregular arterial pulse which was consistent with rapid atrial fibrillation in 1863.
Later, Marey introduced the concept of transmission sphygmograph or polygraph. That new device was able to produce simultaneous recordings of several pulses such as radial and apical cardiac pulses.
During his career, Marey worked extensively with Jean Baptiste Auguste Chauveau who was a professor of veterinary physiology. They invented a device named cardiograph to study intra-cardiac pressures in animals. They introduced air-filled ampoules in the cardiac chambers of animals and recorded simultaneously the variations of pressure in different chambers during the cardiac cycle. The revolving drum which would allow them to obtain graphic recordings on paper was called kymograph (see section Cardiac Catheterization). These experiments laid the foundation for cardiac catheterization in the 20th century .
Chauveau JB, Marey E. Appareils et experiences cardiographiques. Mem Acad Imp de Med (Paris) 1863;26:268-319.