129-200 Claudius Galen Had a boy breathe in and out of a bladder and discovered that the volume of gas did not change.
1661 Marcello Malpighi First anatomist to describe pulmonary capillaries, bronchioles and acinii.
1662 John Boyle Boyle’s Gas Law published (P1V1 = P2V2)
1662 Robert Boyle Published “New experiments, physico-mechanical, touching the spring of the air”. Showed that animals could not live in a vacuum and the anatomical mechanism by which ventilation of the lung occurred.
1667 Swammerdam Placed tube in a dog’s trachea, immersed underwater and measured respiration by water displacement.
1674 John Mayow Showed that combustion and respiration altered air in similar ways, and that an animal could not survive in air “injured” by combustion.
1677 Robert Hooke Showed it was possible to keep a dog alive by artificial respiration with a bellows. Showed that purpose of the lungs was to expose blood to air.
1681 Giovanni Alfonso Borelli Measured the volume of inspiration in one breath by sucking fluid from a cylinder and measuring displaced volume. Blocked off nostrils to make sure no air escaped through his nose.
1708 Keill Measured exhaled volume.
1718 James Jurin Blew air in a bag, measured volume by water displacement.
1727 Stephen Hales Measured vital capacity with a “pneumatic trough over water”. Invented the U-tube manometer.
1738 Daniel Bernoulli Published his treatise “Hydrodynamics” which included his observations on what is now known as the Bernoulli Effect.
1754 Joseph Black Discovered carbon dioxide (“fixed air”).
1757 Joseph Black Showed that respiration produced carbon dioxide.
1772 Rutherford Discovered nitrogen.
1772 Joseph Priestly Discovered nitrous oxide.
1775 Joseph Priestly First publication of his discovery of oxygen. Showed that respiration consumed oxygen and that plants replenished it. Showed that oxygen was responsible for the color of blood.
1777 Antoine- Laurent Lavoisier Using an ice-calorimeter, Lavoisier proved that combustion and respiration were one and the same. He also measured the oxygen consumed during respiration and concluded that the amount changes depending on human activities.
1787 Jacques Charles Charles’s Gas Law published (V1/T1 = V2/T2).
1788 Edwin Goodwyn Sucked water into a ‘pneumatic vessel’ which was then weighed on scales. He stated that the vital capacity could reach as much as 4460 ml. Corrected for temperature, but did not use a nose-clip.
1789 Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier Published first description of a gasometer in Traité Élémentaire de Chimie,
1793 John Abernathy Showed that exhaled air contained carbon dioxide and a reduced oxygen concentration.
1795 Charles Kite Used bladder to measure tidal volume, inspiratory reserve volume and expiratory reserve volume.
1795 James Watt, Dr. Thomas Beddoes. Watt built a gasometer based on Lavoisier’s gasometer for Dr. Thomas Beddoes’ Pneumatic Institute.
1796 Robert Menzies Measured tidal volume by exhaling into an allantoid, divided total volume by the number of breaths. Used a water plethysmograph (subject submerged in barrel) to verify.  Measured lung volume in cadavers.
1799 William Hasledine Pepys May Measured tidal volume using gasometers.
1800 Sir Humphrey Davy Measured lung capacity, tidal volume. Measured Residual Volume using hydrogen dilution method. Gas was collected in silk bag, measured in a mercury gasometer.
1801 John Dalton Dalton’s Law of the Partial Pressures of gases published
1802 Joseph Gay-Lassac Gay-Lassac’s Gas Law published (P1/T1 = P2/T2).
1808 W. Allen, M.H. Pepys Showed that successive samples of exhaled air contained different concentrations of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
1813 Coathupe, Prout In separate experiments each measured diurnal variations of exhaled CO2.
1813 Edward Kentish Developed the Pulmometer which was an inverted bell jar with a water seal. Measured exhaled volume in patients with disease, noted relationship between height and volume.
1828 Herbst Measured exhaled volume, noted relationship to height.
1831 Charles Turner Thachrah Improved the Pulmometer, using an inverted glass bottle. First to note that women had a smaller inhaled volume.
1836 Heinrich Gustave Magnus Used a mercury vacuum pump to show the presence of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide gases in blood.
1841 Valentin and Brunner Developed a simple technique for measuring exhaled oxygen and carbon dioxide by chemical absorption.
1843 Julius Jeffries Published “Views on the statistics of the human chest” discussing lung volumes. First use of “Tidal Volume” to describe the volume of normal breathing.
1843 M. Bourgery Measured exhaled volume, showed relationship between age, gender and BMI using a “hydro-pneumatic” apparatus.
1845 Karl von Vierodt Used “Expirator” to measure vital capacity and residual volume. Published “Physiologoes des Athmens besonderer Rucksicht mit der auf die Aushcheidung Kohlensaure” which was a standard texbook for decades afterward.
1846 John Hutchinson Developed the water seal counterweighted bell spirometer based on Lavoisier’s gasometer. Measured vital capacity in 2130 people, showed that it was proportional to height, age and gender. Coined the word “spirometer” and was the first to use the term “Vital Capacity” for the maximum amount of air than can be exhaled after a maximum inhalation.
1847 Karl Ludwig Invented the kymograph.
1848 Gustav Simon Studied relationship of chest circumference to Vital Capacity.
1850 Phoebus Developed a non-counter weighted, water seal spirometer.
1850 Regnualt and Reiset Simultaneously measured CO2 production and oxygen consumption in small animals.
1850 Franz Forstmann Developed a spirometer based on a wet gas meter.
1850 J.F.H. Albers Published “The diagnoses of the disease of the thoracic organs by means of physical signs, or Auscultation, Percussion and Spirometry” in Bonn, Germany which became a standard textbook for decades.
1853 Donders Demonstrated the elastic recoil of the lung.
1853 Fabius Showed relationship between vital capacity and the height of the thorax.
1854 Karl August Wintrich Developed a modified Hutchinson spirometer. Studied Vital Capacity in 3500 people and confirmed relationship between height, age, weight and gender.
1854 M. Boudin Developed a rubber bulb spirometer. A rod with a scale was attached to top of the bulb and moved upwards as bulb inflated.
1854 Voorhelm Schneevogel (Schneevogt?) Showed that women have a smaller vital capacity than men for the same height. Also showed VC was lower in kyphoscoliosis.
1855 Adolf Fick Published Fick’s Laws of Diffusion.
1855 F. Arnold Published a monograph on Vital Capacity in health and disease. Showed relationship between height, gender, age, chest expansion and life habits.
1856 M B Schnepf Developed a modified Hutchinson spirometer where the chain weight varied with bell height. Published vital capacity values for male and female children aged 8 to 19
1856 Bonnet Developed a spirometer based on a gas meter called a pneumatometer.
1856 Coxeter Developed a spirometer consisting of two connected bags; a larger bag for collecting exhaled air and a smaller calibrated bag for measuring the vital capacity.
1856 J Guillet Developed a turbine spirometer he called the “pneusimeter”.
1856 Pereira Developed a spirometer similar to Hutchinson’s with a glass bell.
1857 Fernet Showed that the amount of oxygen in blood was greater than if it was a simple solution.
1857 Gustave-Adolph Hirn First simultaneous measurement of respiration and heat production during exercise with humans in a closed chamber.
1857 Lothar Meyer Showed that nitrogen was in simple solution in the blood.
1857 Claude Bernard Showed that CO causes hypoxia by binding with hemoglobin.
1857 F. Hoppe Showed that blood changes color when exposed to CO.
1859 Edward Smith Measured CO2 production with a gas meter by measuring change in weight of potassium hydroxide. Attached a kymograph to a spirometer to record changes in volume over time.
1859 S. Weir Mitchell Developed a portable spirometer based on a dry gas meter.
1860 N. Grehant Measured FRC using Davy’s method of hydrogen dilution.
1860 Augustus Eckert Developed a non counter-weighted water seal spirometer with a guide rod and a float in the bell.
1862 Max Von Pettenkofer Built a respiration chamber and measured carbon dioxide production in humans under different conditions.
1863 W.E. Bowman Published the description and instructions for constructing a simple water-seal spirometer that were widely circulated.
1864 Stokes First absorption spectra of blood observed.
1865 Aaron P. Barnes Invented a dry spirometer which consisted of a rubberized-cloth bag inside a tin canister which pushed a scale rod upwards.
1865 Robert Mann Lownes Developed a portable spirometer based on a small fan or turbine.
1866 William Thomas Salter Added kymograph to spirometer to measure change in volume over time.
1868 J. Marechal Developed a turbine spirometer which measured inspiration, expiration and time.
1868 G.W. Brown Patented and sold a water-seal spirometer with a rectangular, non-counter weighted bell.
1869 Guyet Developed a curved tube spirometer based on a propellor/turbine.
1869 Leon Bergeon & M. Kastus Devised spirometer with a recording pen, the “anapnograph”.  Measured flows as well as volume. Used a nasal mask as well as a mouth piece.
1870 Adolf Fick Published principle for measuring cardiac output from VO2, CaO2 and CvO2.
1871 C. Speck Used a pair of gasometers to measure inspired and expired volume.  Measured oxygen and CO2 concentration of expired air.
1872 Paul Broca Developed a bellows spirometer.
1872? Galante Developed a counter-weighted bellows spirometer with a dial readout.
1875 L. Waldenburg Published the theory of treating pulmonary diseases with compressed or rarified air. Modified a Hutchinson spirometer for this purpose.
1875 Paul Bert Wrote “La Pression Barometrique” where he showed the relationship between altitude, the partial pressure of oxygen and hypoxia.
1876? Marey Developed the pneumograph which directly measured the movement of the thorax during breathing.
1878 Paul Bert Showed relationship between partial pressure of oxygen in blood and oxygen content.
1879 J. Gad Invented the “aeroplethysmograph”.  First version of what is now called a Krogh spirometer. Included a kymograph.
1879 Regnard Collected exhaled air in a 200 liter rubber bag.  Analayzed samples of exhaled air.
1880 A. Rattray Developed a water-seal non-counter weighted spirometer with a square bell.
1880 J.P. Marsh Invented Marsh’s Pocket Spirometer, which consisted of a rubber balloon with an attached tape measure.
1881 Burq Developed the pulsator-gymnoinhalteur which measured exhaled pressure.
1882 Eduard Pfluger Developed the pneumonometer (respiratory pressure manometer).  Described basic principles of plethysmograph.
1883 George Bellange Developed a turbine spirometer.
1883 C. Speck Developed first ergometer (hand cranked)
1885 F. Miescher-Rusch Determined that ventilation is regulated by arterial CO2.
1885 W. A. Shepard Developed water-sealed spirometer, non-counter weighted, volume was read from rod attached to bell.
1889 Zuntz and Schumburg Developed the first treadmill.
1890 Stanley Developed a gas meter/turbine style spirometer
1891 Verdin Developed a spirometer based on a commercial gas meter.
1891 Hanriot and Richet Developed a system for continuously measuring respiratory quotient using three gas meters and different gas absorbants.
1891 Bohr Measured dead space for carbon dioxide in humans.
1892 John Haldane Published instructions on preparing granular soda lime to to enable it to absorb exhaled carbon dioxide.
1892 Denison Developed a bellows spirometer.
1894 Hoppe and Seyler First closed-circuit measurement of O2 consumption in humans by the volume decrease in a closed-circuit respiration chamber with a CO2 absorbant.
1894 William Ramsay, Lord Rayleigh Discovered Argon.
1895 William Ramsay First isolation of Helium.
1897 Elisee Bouny Developed the first bicycle ergometer.
1898 J B Haldane First accurate measurement of O2 and CO2 content of blood.
1898 William Ramsay, Morris Travers Discovered Neon, Krypton, Xenon.
1902 P. Robin Developed the first dry bellows wedge spirometer.
1904 Jules Tissot Developed the first closed circuit spirometer, a large water-seal spirometers for gas collection.  Also developed one-way valves.
1910 F G Benedict Developed a closed-circuit respiration apparatus for measuring CO2 production and oxygen consumption.
1911 C G Douglas Developed the Douglas bag for collecting exhaled air.
1915 Marie Krogh First diffusing capacity measurements with carbon monoxide which became the basis of the single-breath diffusing capacity test.
1916 Eugene F. Du Bois Developed the formula for body surface area (BSA).
1917 Peabody & Wentworth First published standards for a normal vital capacity.
1918 Anthony Barker Developed the Simplex spirometer.
1919 Dryer First use of regression equations rather than tables to predict normal vital capacity.
1920 Warren E. Collins Warren E. Collins Scientific Instruments started manufacturing spirometers.
1921 F. B. Sanborn Sanborn Scientific Instruments started manufacturing spirometers.
1923 Van Slyke & Binger First measurement of FRC by H2 dilution (rebreathing technique)
1924 Van Slyke & Neill Developed the manometric technique for measuring O2 and CO2 in blood.
1925 Alfred Fleisch Developed first flow measuring Pneumotachograph.
1927 Neergard & Wirz First demonstration of flow-interruption technique to measure airway resistance
1928 Barcroft, Henderson First determination of hemoglobin’s oxygen disscociation curve.
1929 Hugo Wilhelm Knipping Published first standardized method for spiroergometry.
1932 R V Christie First open-circuit Nitrogen washout lung volume measurement.
1933 J. Hermannsen First description of MVV test.
1934 Alvan L. Barach First therapeutic use of Helium-Oxygen mixture.
1935 Karl Mathes Developed first two-wavelength ear oximeter using red and green filters.
1938 Alvan L. Barach First documentation of spirometry response to bronchodilator.
1938 K F Luft Developed first infrared CO2 analyzer.
1939 McMichael First use of katharometer (to measure H2) for closed-circuit FRC measurement, recommended breathing period of 4-6 minutes.
1941 G R Meneely & N L Kaltreider First helium dilution closed-circuit lung volume measurment.
1942 Glenn Millikan Independently developed the ear oximeter. Used in altitude research during WWII.
1946 Beckman Company Beckman paramagnetic oxygen analyzer developed.
1947 Pers Scholander Developed technique for accurate analysis of small (0.5 cc) gas samples.
1947 Marc Tiffeneau First description of FEV1 aka “capacité pulmonary utilisable à l’effort” (CPUE).
1948 J C Lilly & J P Hervey Developed real-time (<5 msec) N2 analyzer.
1948 Ward Fowler Developed single breath technique for measuring anatomical dead space.
1949 Dargatz Co. Developed first continuous exercise metabolic measurement system.  Was capable of measuring VO2 up to 3.0 LPM.
1951 Edward Gaensler Timed vital capacity, first description of FEV1/FVC ratio.
1954 Severinghaus Developed glass pH electrode subsequently used in ABG analysis.
1954 Leland C. Clark Developed the oxygen electrode subsequently used in ABG analyzers.
1954 G F Filley et al. First steady-state diffusing capacity test.
1956 A B Dubois et al Full body plethsymographic TGV measurements.
1956 A B Dubois et al First plethysmographic airway resistance measurements.
1956 A B Dubois et al First description of oscillometry.
1957 C M Ogilvie et al Standardized Single-breath DLCO test described.
1957 Roughton, Forster First description and measurement of DMCO and Vc.
1957 Severinghaus Developed PCO2 electrode used in ABG analysis.
1958 R E Hyatt, D P Schilder, D J Fry First description of the Maximal Expiratory Flow-Volume Loop.
1958 K.T. Fowler Developed the respiratory mass spectrometer.
1959 B M Wright and C B McKerrow Developed first hand-held peak flow meter.
1959 Dr. William Stead, Dr. Herbert Wells Developed the Stead-Wells spirometer. Water sealed, non-counterweighted with a direct-writing ultra-lightweight bell.
1959 Lewis, Lin, Noe, Hayford-Welsing First rebreathing DLCO test.
1960 Jere Mead, J H Emerson Developed the first volume displacement plethysmograph.
1963 D P Schilder First to note changes in flow-volume loop while breathing helium-oxygen mixture.
1968 AB Fisher, AB Dubois, RW Hyde First demonstration of the forced oscillation technique for measuring airway resistance
1969 Anthonisen et al First description of Closing Volume measurement using resident gas (N2).
1970 Bartschi, Haab & Held Developed PCO2 electrode for blood gas analysis
1972 Depas et al First use of helium-oxygen mixture with flow-volume loop.
1972 Takuo Aoyagi Developed first pulse oximeter which was manufactured and sold by Nihon Koden.
1979 ATS First published standards for spirometers and spirometry based on the Snowbird Workshop recommendations.
1983 Borland, Chamberlain, Higenbottam First measurement of DLNO.
1986 Beaver, Wasserman, Whipp Developed V-Slope technique for determining Anaerobic threshold.
1987 Guenard, Varene, Vaida First simultaneous measurement of DLCO and DLNO.

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PFT History by Richard Johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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The diverse, quirky and mostly forgotten history of Pulmonary Function testing