"In 1872, Lippmann invented the capillary electrometer… It was with this instrument that the variations in potential from the human heart were first recorded directly." -Burch, A History of Electrocardiography
SCARCE FIRST PRINTING IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS of Lippmann's famous "Thesis", presenting his capillary electrometer, the foundation for the electrocardiogram.
The capillary electrometer "was an apparatus that used a new physical principle to measure electrical potential and is changes… The concept behind the instrument was really quite simple and elegant and had been worked out in Kirchoff's laboratory in Heidelberg by a young Parisian physicist, Gabriel Lippmann. Lippmann found that the surface tension of a liquid such as mercury, when covered with another electrolyte such as dilute sulfuric acid, was dependent in a complex way upon the potential difference across the phase boundary. Change the voltage by even a minuscule amount and one changed the surface tension, and hence the shape of the meniscus: it moved up and down. Converting this principle into an instrument was equally simple. One took a glass tube perhaps one-quarter inch across, pulled out one end into a capillary, filled it with mercury, inverted the capillary end into a bath of dilute sulfuric acid, and applied a potential across the mercury/sulfuric boundary. The tiny meniscus, no more than one-fiftieth of a millimeter across, could be viewed through a microscope and could be seen to move almost instantaneously with changes in electromotive force of as little as .0001 volt. Lippmann published preliminary accounts of his experiments on electrocapillarity in 1874 and incorporated a full theoretical treatment into a Thèse he presented to the Paris Faculté des Sciences in April 1875 and printed in July" (Coleman, The Invesitative Enterprise).
"The invention of the capillary electrometer in the early 1870s by Gabriel Lippmann led to the first recording of a human electrocardiogram by Augustus D. Waller" and "for more than two decades the capillary electrometer was the best method available to physiologists for recording the electrical activity of the of the heart" (Iaizzo, Handbook of Cardiac Anatomy; Fleming, A Short History of Cardiology).
Relations entre les phénomènes électriques et capillaires. Thèses présentés a la faculté des sciences de Paris pour obtenir le grade de docteur ès sciences physiques, par M. Gabriel Lippmann. Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1875. Quarto, original wrappers; custom box. pp. 1-58. Small archival tape reinforcement on rear of front cover; tiny (almost invisible) repairs to extreme corner of first few leaves, library stamp and ink call numbers on cover and title. RARE.
Price: $2,900 .