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Part of a sphygmomanometer, Europe, 1876-1900

Scottish pharmacologist and physician Sir Thomas Brunton Lauder (1844-1916) owned this part of a sphygmomanometer. A sphygmomanometer is a blood pressure device. Austrian physician Samuel von Basch (1837-1905) introduced the sphygmomanometer in 1876. The water-filled rubber bulb was placed directly onto the skin to apply pressure to an artery. This bulb was connected to a pressure gauge. The gauge told the physician how much force was needed to compress the artery and thus the blood pressure. The physician took a reading once the pulse disappeared in the limb. Previous blood pressure devices were clunky and had mechanical problems. It took until 1896 for the portable, reliable and easy-to-use inflatable cuff around the arm to be developed. This blood pressure device is still used.

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Glossary: sphygmomanometer

An instrument used by medical staff to measure blood pressure. Usually made up of a cuff which is placed around the arm of a patient, and a measuring unit that shows the patient's blood pressure.