Lipsius Building Leiden University, Room 011

Cleveringaplaats 1, Leiden


Boerhaave, Studium Generale

18 April - W. F. Einthoven’s String galvanometer: the electrocardiograph as wireless telegraph

When Nobel prizewinner Willem Einthoven created his string galvanometer, he could never have imagined that a modified version of his invention would be used as the first Dutch wireless telegraph. Einthoven’s son, Willem Frederik Einthoven, helped his father optimise the string galvanometer by developing a vacuum version of it. Einthoven Jr. was an engineer and he used his expertise to experiment with this vacuum galvanometer to send and receive Morse code.


Communication between the Dutch East Indies and the Netherlands wasn’t always smooth. Maintaining contact proved particularly difficult during the First World War, when the Netherlands was a neutral country and communications with the East Indies had to pass through British territory. A telegraph capable of quickly spanning 12,000 km would be able to solve this problem. In 1924 Willem Frederik Einthoven left for the East Indies to experiment with this rapid transmitter/receiver in Bandung (West Java). Unfortunately, this system never really worked due to local weather conditions. But in spite of this, W. F. Einthoven has gone down in history as one of the founding fathers of Dutch radio-telegraphy.


Speaker:     Bart Grob, curator at Museum Boerhaave, a specialist in the (bio)medical sciences from 1850.
Time:         19.30 – 21.00 hours