Skip to Main Content
Biomedical engineering is one of the newer specialities that evolved following the end of World War II. As with any emerging field, it is logical to look back to identify those who were doing what we now call biomedical engineering. In fact, there were many, and it is not possible to identify the first biomedical engineer but this is less important than discovering those who were applying the laws of physics to solve biomedical problems; Jacques Arsenne d'Arsonval (1851-1940) was one of these. He gave us the chlorided silver electrode; inductive and capacitive (dielectric) heating (diathermy), which paved the way for electrosurgery; the thermocouple (radiofrequency) ammeter; and the moving-coil galvanometer, which formed the basis for virtually all panel-type pointer meters. He was also the first to stimulate excitable tissue magnetically with eddy currents. We present the story of this ingenious and creative French physician who did not practice medicine, but did practice research on a grand scale.