Google Doodle honored Willem Einthoven today on what would have been his 159th birthday. The pioneering scientist won the Nobel Prize of Medicine for his work inventing the electrocardiogram (EKG), a device used to record the heart's electrical activity.
Einthoven was born on 21 May 1860 in Indonesia. At an early age, his family returned to the Netherlands where he went on to study Medicine at Utrecht.
It was in 1895 that he began work on the electrical currents of the heart. His interest in the work was spiked after seeing a demonstration of a crude electrocardiogram device developed by British physiologist Augustus Waller.
The latter's device was not very accurate so Einthoven decided to produce a better one. He wrote in 1906 that his invention would help doctors “to give relief to the suffering of our patients.”
In 1924, he went on to receive the Nobel Prize “for the discovery of the mechanism of the electrocardiogram." The Doodle depicts the device's earliest incarnation that required the patient to plunge both hands and one foot into buckets of salt solution.
Despite its strange nature, that electrocardiogram was extremely accurate. “Einthoven achieved such amazing technical perfection that many modern electrocardiographs do not attain equally reliable and undistorted recordings,” wrote Serge Barold in a 2003 paper.
Unfortunately, Einthoven would not live to enjoy his invention much. He died three years after winning the Nobel Prize.