Marey sphygmograph formerly in the possession of Harold H. Barber (1896-1974), lecturer in pharmacology at The University of Nottingham, n.d. [c.1880-1940]

Scope and Content

The collection consists of one sphygmograph in a case inscribed 'Ch Verdin G Boulitte Sr 7 Rue Linné Paris'.

The sphygmograph is predominantly made of brass, and comprises ivory pincers and a strap used to attach the device to the forearm, a pressure sensor, a pressure dial, a clockwork mechanism to move the recording plate at a regular speed, a metal stylus, and a metal recording plate on which the pulse waves were recorded (impressions of pulse waves are still visible). The recording plate would probably have been covered with paper when the sphygmograph was in use.

The date the sphygmograph was produced has been estimated from other known examples of Verdin and Boulitte's work.

Administrative / Biographical History

The first widely used portable sphygmograph (a device used to measure and record the pulse, and the forerunner of modern instruments for measuring blood pressure) was invented by the French physician Etienne Jules Marey (1830-1904). Charles Verdin and G. Boulitte were well known manufacturers of medical and mechanical instruments in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th century respectively.

An animation showing how a sphygmograph worked is available online at [accessed 19/01/2016].

Harold Hayden Barber obtained his PhD from the University of London. He was appointed as assistant lecturer in pharmacology and demonstrator in biochemistry at University College Nottingham in 1932. He was also assistant to the Massey Research Fellow. Between 1943 and 1948 he was acting head of the Department of Physiology. When the departments were reorganised on the foundation of The University of Nottingham in 1948 he became a lecturer in pharmacology in the Department of Pharmacy. Dr Barber wrote 'Physiology for pharmaceutical students', published in 1937. Its third edition in 1951, by which time it had become a standard textbook, was entitled 'Physiology and pharmacology for pharmaceutical students'. Dr Barber retired in 1961.


No archival arrangement has been necessary.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all readers.

Other Finding Aids

This description is the only finding aid available for the collection. Copyright in the description belongs to The University of Nottingham.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Good, but the clockwork winding mechanism is no longer working, so the recording plate cannot move on its own.

Conditions Governing Use

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult.

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Custodial History

The item was acquired by Manuscripts and Special Collections in May 2007.