Invented by Dutch physiologist Willem Einthoven in 1902, the electrocardiograph provided a reading of the heart’s electrical pattern, which remains a mainstay of cardiovascular diagnosis today. But, diffusion of the new technology — costly and cumbersome — was slow. Many of the first devices were used for animal research rather than patient care. As late as 1913, there was only one electrocardiograph in Minnesota — at Elliott Memorial Hospital in Minneapolis.
By that time, however, construction was underway for the Mayo Clinic building in Rochester. Henry Plummer, M.D., designer of the building and developer of the philosophy it represented, included space for an electrocardiograph.
Mayo Clinic ordered its apparatus from the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company in England. The device arrived soon after the building opened, and Mayo Clinic recorded its first EKG on Aug. 1, 1914. Use of the technology helped Mayo Clinic expand from a nearly exclusive focus on surgery to develop complementary priorities in diagnosis and nonoperative treatment for a wide range of conditions.