Étienne-Jules Marey

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Étienne-Jules Marey (around 1850)

Étienne-Jules Marey (born March 5, 1830 in Beaune , Département Côte-d'Or , France , † May 15, 1904 in Paris ) was a French physiologist , inventor and pioneer of photographic technology .


His father, Claude Marey, was a wine merchant, his mother a teacher. Marey remained unmarried.

education and profession

In 1838 he attended the Collège Monge in his hometown and after graduating from school (1849) was urged by his father to study medicine. Marey first went to the École polytechnique , which corresponded to his scientific and mechanical talents, and in 1850 to Paris to study medicine.

He then worked as an intern at the Hôpital Cochin . During this time he began to be particularly interested in the physiology and pathophysiology of the circulatory system . After completing his clinical training with honors, he submitted his dissertation in 1859 and received his doctorate. His work on circulatory physiological topics has been published since 1857: circulatory hydraulics, dicrotic pulse, vasomotor - sphygmographic technology. An attempt to establish himself as a general practitioner failed. At the École Pratique he gave lectures on blood circulation and cardiovascular diseases. After a short stay in Carl Ludwig's laboratory in Vienna , he returned to Paris in 1860 to develop his first sphygmograph .

Marey led the bohemian life until 1864 , living and working in a small Parisian apartment on Rue Cuvier, where he set up a physiological laboratory. In 1868 he moved into a former Comédie Française building , where he converted the auditorium and the stage rooms into laboratories and apartments. His circulatory physiological work was usually carried out here, first with graphic equipment from Germany ( Ludwig kymograph ), then with his own designs. Until then, he had carried out all research projects outside of scientific or medical specialist colleges.

In 1867 Marey received an assistant professorship at the Collège de France , an institution completely independent in research and teaching. In 1869 he took over the office of natural historian Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens as professor for Histoire naturelle des corps organisés ( natural history ) and continued experimental physiological research there. In 1872 he was admitted to the Académie de Médecine (presidency 1900) and in 1878 to the more important Académie des Sciences , where he succeeded Claude Bernard .

In 1880 he moved his laboratory to a larger building on Boulevard Delessert. Marey mostly spent the winter months in his Italian country house on the Gulf of Naples , which he had acquired in 1870 and where he could experiment in peace. In 1880 the city of Paris built a physiological (or photographic) laboratory at the Parc des Princes , which was available to the Collège de France and Marey. In 1884 he was president of the Société de Navigation Aérienne . In 1887 Marey took over the chairmanship of a state commission for the reform of physical exercise in public schools. In 1894 Marey became president of the Société Française de Photographie .

From May to October 1900 the Summer Olympics were held in Paris as part of the World Exhibition . In order to take advantage of the opportunity to observe and study the best athletes in the world on site, a “Commission de physiologie et d'hygiène” was set up, in which Marey was involved in a leading position. In addition to chronophotography, a number of other measuring and recording devices developed by Marey were used in an extensive research program.

In 1895 Marey was appointed President of the Académie des Sciences , and in 1900 Knight of the Legion of Honor . Since 1902 he was a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg . In 1903 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences .

Marey's last years were marked by the effort to establish an institute for the research of technical methods and instruments. In 1902, under his direction, it was inaugurated near the physiological laboratory and named Institute Marey .

25 books and more than 280 scientific articles appeared during his lifetime. However, the content was repeated frequently. Marey wrote for scientists, doctors, and the general public. Etienne-Jules Marey had once given himself the professional title of engineer de la vie .


Marey was a pioneer in circulatory physiology, blood pressure measurement , graphic recording technology, scientific photography , aviation and cinematography . He was instrumental in clarifying the basic principles of indirect blood pressure measurement and the film. Until 1870, Marey's main interests were questions of the physiology of the circulatory system and the development of reliable investigation techniques. Later he expanded his medical-scientific research in the direction of technical inventions for the study of biological movement phenomena as such, in animals and humans.

Intracardially sphygmographically obtained pulse pressure curves with chronological assignment of the cardiac action phases

Marey as a physiologist

Cardiac catheterization of a horse

From 1860 Marey worked closely with Jean Baptiste Auguste Chauveau (1827-1917), who later became professor of physiology in Lyon . To solve the hitherto controversial question of the time relationships between systole , diastole and arterial pulse , they carried out invasive intracardiac pressure measurements in horses : Chauveau had experience in animal experiments and Marey made his technical skills and his new graphic recording method available for this project. The catheter-technical ( balloon probe ), polygraphic- synchronous curve writing of right or left ventricular and atrial pressures as well as cardiac impulse enabled for the first time the correct assignment of heart tones to intracardiac pressure changes, the description of the "intersystole", the isovolumetric phase of the left ventricular contraction, the cardiac refractory period , of synchronous ventricular contractions and the chronology of heart valve movements (1861–1863).

In 1876, Marey used the capillary electrometer developed four years earlier by Gabriel Lippmann to record the electrical activity of the heart. This was an important milestone in the history of electrocardiography .

During this time he also strove to perfect the sphygmograph, which he made the standard instrument of scientific records of the epoch. In addition, he constructed an artificial heart on which he could check the reliability of the pressure curves found in life. In 1878 and 1881, respectively, summaries of all circulatory physiological work appeared in book form.

Marey as an inventor

Étienne-Jules Marey (around 1900) in the midst of his inventions (sphygmograph, recording devices, bird flight model, projector, film camera)
Sphygmograph for direct arterial pulse curve recording on the wrist

Around 1880 Marey expanded the graphic method through the use of photographic techniques. He developed single image photography to reconstruct movement sequences ( chronophotography ) - even three-dimensional reconstructions were possible. He used rotating photographic plates in a gun-like camera (1882), light-sensitive strips of paper or celluloid (1888) and finally projection devices (1893) and a 35 mm camera (1899).

Chronophotography of a pelican flight, around 1882

His questions related to the movement of animals ( insects , flight of birds , horses, cats, etc.) and human body movements. Marey regarded chronophotography as the perfect application of the "graphic method". On the other hand, the film itself seemed scientifically uninteresting to Marey, since the cinematic reproduction only true to reality shows what can be seen directly with the eyes. The purpose of a scientific method, however, is to compensate for the inadequacy of the senses and to correct their errors. Marey did not participate in the upcoming dispute over the priority of the invention of cinematography and in disputes over patent applications. In 1894 his main work on this subject appeared with the simple title Le mouvement .

Other works by Marey dealt with the electric discharge of the electric eel , the cholera epidemic of 1885 and the requirements of aviation (1873).

Marey's sphygmograph

From 1859 Marey began developing his own graphic pulse recording system, which was supposed to overcome the disadvantages of German designs ( Vierordt , Ludwig), their inertia , unwieldiness and inaccuracy. In order to achieve his goal, he invented an elastic metal spring system that could easily absorb the arterial pulsation and adequately transmit it to a writing lever. The construction was small, light, compact and could follow the rapid pulse movements. Equipped with a suitable holding and writing device, this sphygmograph was portable and easy to use on an outpatient basis.

A further improvement in this direct sphygmography was the development of a transmission sphygmograph. Marey constructed a capsule or "drum", which consisted of two flat shells lined with a rigid rubber membrane. A pipe socket connected this closed air space to another or more such capsules via a hose. A pad was glued to the rubber membrane of the pick-up drum ( tambour explorateur ) and pressed on the radial artery, and a stick was attached to the recording drum ( tambour inscripteur ) to record the pulsations. In this way, several movements were registered at the same time. Isochronies and time assignments of curves were possible. This construction ( polygraph ) was a necessary prerequisite for the clarification of the intracardiac pressure relationships by Chauveau and Marey, the basis for any further research into the physiology of heart movement. An exact blood pressure measurement was not possible with Marey's sphygmograph alone.

Replica of Marey's chronophotographic shotgun ("photographic rifle")

Marey's influence

Marey's movement studies exerted an almost magical fascination on many contemporary artists. Chronophotography mainly influenced the works of the Italian Futurists ( Bragaglia , Balla , Boccioni , Russolo ) and abstract painting (Balla, Kupka , Duchamp ).

The publication La machine animale from 1873 inspired Governor Leland Stanford to commission Eadweard Muybridge (d. I. Edward Muggeridge) in 1878 to use special chronograph cameras to study animal movements (such as horses galloping ).

Marey himself was inspired by Muybridge's publication Animal locomotion (1877) to improve the astronomical revolver by Jules Janssen (1874) and developed his chronophotographic shotgun (also known as "photographic rifle"), with which objects moving in space could be photographed in series .

With his work, Marey tried "to instruct us as precisely as possible about all the movements that our eyes cannot follow because they are either too fast or too slow or too complex" (Marey 1893).


The asteroid (3456) Etiennemarey is named after him.


  • Research on circulation you sang à l'état physiologique et dans les maladies . Paris 1859
  • Recherches sur le pouls au moyen d'un nouvel appareil enregistreur: le sphygmographe . Soc Biol Paris (CR) I (1859) 289, II (1860) 635
  • Études physiologiques sur les caractères graphiques des battements du coeur . 1863
  • You mouvement in le fonctions de la vie . 1868 digitized
  • La machine animale, locomotion terrestre et aérienne . Paris 1873
  • The mesure de la pression dans the artères de l'homme . Mém. VIII. In: Travaux du Laboratoire de M. Marey 2 (1876) 307
  • Moyen de mesurer la valeur manomètrique de la pression du sang chez l'homme . Acad Sci Paris (CR) 87 (1878) 771
  • La méthode graphique dans les sciences expérimentales - La circulation du sang à l'état physiologique et dans les maladies . Paris 1878 digitized
  • The circulation you sang à l'état physiologique et dans les maladies . Paris 1881 digitized
  • Le fusil photographique . La Nature 22 avril (1882) 326
  • Les eaux contaminées et le choléra . Paris 1884
  • Le mouvement . Paris 1894 (London 1895)


  • Marey's photographic shotgun in: Photographische Korrespondenz , 19. Jg., 1882, pp. 173-176, 190-191
  • Dictionary of Scientific Biography 9: 101
  • François Dagognet: Etienne-Jules Marey. La passion de la trace. Paris 1987
  • CEF Franck: L'Œuvre de Étienne-Jules Marey. Paris 1906
  • Michel Frizot (ed.): Etienne-Jules Marey. Center National de la Photographie, Paris 1984
  • AR Michaelis: EJ Marey - physiologist and first cinematographer. Med Hist 10 (1966) 201
  • HA Snellen (ed.): Étienne-Jules Marey and Cardiology: Physiologist and Pioneer of Technology 1830-1904. Rotterdam 1980
  • Snyder, Joel: Visualization and Visibility. In: Geimer, Peter (Ed.): Order of Visibility. Photography in Science, Art and Technology. Frankfurt a. M .: Suhrkamp, ​​2002. pp. 142-167.

Individual evidence

  1. Bulletin de décès .
  2. Barbara I. Tshisuaka: Marey, Etienne-Jules. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 892.
  3. Philipp Sarasin . Irritable machines. A history of the body 1765-1914, Frankfurt am Main 2001, p. 329
  4. cf. Etienne-Jules Marey. La Chronophotographie et les sports athlétiques in: La nature: revue des sciences et de leurs applications aux arts et à l'industrie, 1901,13. April, pp. 310-315, Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de médecine (Paris) - http://www.bium.univ-paris5.fr/histmed/medica/cote?marey017
  5. ^ Foreign members of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1724. Étienne-Jules Marey. Russian Academy of Sciences, accessed October 4, 2015 (Russian).
  6. ^ History of electrocardiography ( Memento from June 11, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Supplementary material for the lecture by private lecturer JM Davis, University of Munich
  7. Etienne-Jules Marey, La station physiologique de Paris (1), in: La nature: revue des sciences et de leurs applications aux arts et à l'industrie,: Jg. XXXI 1894, p. 804 - from: Bibliothèque numérique Medic @ - http://www.biusante.parisdescartes.fr/histmed/medica/cote?marey190
  8. Minor Planet Circ. 40700

Web links

Commons : Étienne-Jules Marey  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files