Category Archives: 1870s

Spirometer, Hall’s, 1877

From Hall’s Journal of Health, Volume 24, 1877, page 343.

“No physician questions the value of the spirometer for exercising and expanding the lungs, and for measuring their capacity. The great difficulty has been to find an instrument that can be compressed into a small compass when not in use, so that the physician or patient could carry it from place to place as circumstances might require. Another obstacle to the more general use of this truly valuable instrument has been its cost. The unwieldy spirometer of a few years ago, cost from $10 to $20.  Dr. Hall’s Portable Spirometer costs only six dollars and will be sent free to any address on receipt of the price by the editor of this Journal.

“It is 6 by 12 inches, and when closed it stands only 3 inches high and weighs less than 3 pounds.

“This cut represents Dr. Hall’s Portable Spirometer partly inflated, in order to show the manner of using it. When not in use it can ben closed together so as to occupy the small space above stated.  The scale and guide are hinged, so that they close down on the top of the spirometer, and occupy but little space.  The brass-work is plated with silver or nickel.”

Holden Pneumasirene, 1876


From Edgar Holden, M.D. of Newark, New Jersey: Provincial Physician on a National Stage, by Sandra W. Moss M.D.M.A., page 437.

“Dubbed a Pneumasirene, Holden’s whistle-like instrument produced an audible tone rather than registering pressure (a sirene is an acoustical instrument for measuring the velocity of sound waves).  He believed his device to be an improvement on the Hutchinson spirometer for measuring lung function.  Further, Holden maintained that earlier instruments had the potential to lacerate diseased lung tissue due to forceful inhalation and exhalation against a fixed resistance.”

A more complete description comes from the Maryland Medical Journal: Medicine and Surgery, 1878, Volume 3, page 105:

“Briefly it consists of a glass tube, one inch in diameter and ten inches in length with metallic end-pieces, a piston made of two disks perforated by two rows of fine sloping holes precisely like the syren of Dove, a spiral spring, and finally an index and register.  Expiratory and inspiratory efficiency, both actual and relative, are recorded, and the waviness and inequality of are made evident to the ear.

“Better and of greater advantage, however,  than this is the fact that use of the instrument will by constant or rather frequent use will develop chest capacity, re-dilate the cells collapsed and weakened by incipient disease, and by its allowing the free passage of air will do this without danger to the affected tissues – differing in this last particular from the ordinary pneumatometer, which however perfect an instrument for scientific observation, could hardly with safety be universally prescribed.

“Forced expiration produces a low musical note gradually growing more high and intense, but sensitive to the least changes in the power exerted, while the index is steadily pressed towards the further end, and remains in place after the effort is exhausted.  The latter has now to be pushed back with the wire replacer designed for the purpose, and by reversing the instrument full and forcible inspiration may be applied with similar results. The tube being graduated, the relation as well as the power of the inspiratory and expiratory efforts may be ascertained.”

Mouthpiece and Nasal Mask, Apnapographe Spirometer, 1873


A mouthpiece and nasal mask used with the Apnapographe, a writing spirometer developed by Bergeon.  From “Arsenal du diagnostic médical: recherches sur les thermomètres, les balances, les instruments d’exploration des organes respiratoires, de l’appareil cardio-vasculaire, du système nerveux, les spéculums uteri et les laryngoscopes” by Maurice Jeannel, published by Balliere, 1873, page 102.

Respiration Apparatus, Regnault and Reiset, 1887


From Treatise on human physiology by Henry Cadwalader Chapman, Published by Lea Brothers & Co, 1887, page 443.

“Within the tabulated bell-jar A, immersed in the cylinder of water B, is placed a little animal, a dog, for example, the subject of the experiment.  The animal having been introduced from below, and the opening hermetically closed, the large pipettes G G, filled with a solution of potash or soda of known strength and quantity, and communicating with each other by a caoutchouc tube, absorb and measure the CO2 exhaled unto the air of the jar A, the air being drawn alternately into the pipettes G G through their elevation and depression by hand of some simple mechanical arrangement.  According as the oxygen is absorbed by the animal, the gas pressure falls in A, and consequently the oxygen of the balloon N, under the pressure of the calcium chloride solution in P, flows through M, replacing that lost in A.”

Spirometer, Burt’s, 1876


From Patent #180842, filed August 1876 by W.H. Burt.

“My invention is designed to produce a pocket spirometer, by which the breathing-capacity of a persons lungs can readily be measured in cubic inches, by mercury, oil, glycerine, spirits, water, or all other liquid substances. It consists of a simple glass tube with a small bulb at the base lilled with mercury or other liquid, upon which bulb is a rubber tube with a mouth-piece; also, a vertical scaled tube, into which the mercury or other liquid is blown for testing the lungs in cubic inches.

“The drawing is partly a side elevation and partly a sectional elevation of my improved spirometer.

“A is the glass bulb, for containing the mercury or other liquid substance. B is the rubber tube, with a mouth-piece, O, and D is the scaled tube for measuring the height of the column raised by the lungs. The rubber tube connects with a nozzle on the top of the bulb, and the glass tube connects with the bottom of the bulb by a return bend. The top of the vertical tube is open to the atmosphere, to prevent compressing the air above the liquid, and a little cap, E, may be used for closing it, to exclude dust, &c., and preventing the liquid from running out by pneumatic pressure. This cap must be taken off when in use. Or, the top of the scaled tube and mouth-piece may have a funnel-shaped glass blown into the top of each, which will prevent the liquid from running out, and the cap can be dispensed with; or a cork may be put into the nozzle, and also in the tube, to retain the liquid, in which case both the cap and funnel-shaped glass will not be required. When in use, this cork must be removed, or the instrument will not work.”

This spirometer appears to have been manufactured and sold because it was reviewed by Eldridge C. Price, MD in the 1884 issue of Medical Times (Volume 12, page 40):

“Burt’s instrument requires a maximum amount of muscular strength, and in the haemmhorragic diathesis its use is dangerous. In fact the instrument is nothing but a modified manometer, and is no index of lung capacity. I have seen the worthlessness of this instrument as a spirometer illustrated, when a well-muscled man of 5 feet 7 inches of height, who at one sudden and powerful expiration forced the mercury above the 300 cubic inch index, a few grains even shooting out of the tube.  This gentleman’s actual respiratory capacity by future accurate mensuration proved to be 248 cubic inches.”

Spirometer, Guyet, 1875


A small turbine or fan was turned by airflow which drove a small set of clockwork gears attached to a dial. The curve in the tube is so that the rod that connected the fan to the gears could be straight and yet the gear mechanism could remain outside the tube. From: Nouveaux éléments de pathologie générale, de séméiologie et de diagnostic. by Eugène Bouchut, 1875, page 865.