History of sports medicine - 1701-1750


The Italian professor Bernardino Ramazzini (1633-1714), generally regarded as the first occupational physician, systematically examined work-related diseases, with special attention to jockeys, athletes and runners.


The German physician and chemist Friedrich Hoffmann (1660-1742) described the medical body movement in his 'De Motu Optima Corporis Medicina', in which he distinguished between passive and active movement. He also used body exercises for improving health.


The British physician Francis Fuller (1670-1706) published 'Medical Gymnastics: A Treatise Concerning the Power of Exercise', one of the most poignant discussions about the role of exercise as a medicine, both in the field of healing and in prevention of diseases. He spoke experimentally, because after a powerful external treatment of an itching attack, he was plagued with a severe hypochondria associated with dyspepsia, which he treated with vomiting and exercises on a horse. He stated:

"That the Use of Exercise does conduce very much of the Preservation of Health is scarce disputed by any; but that it should prove Curative in some particular Distempers, and that too when scarce anything else will prevail, seems to obtain little Credit with most People, who tho' they will give a Physician that hearing when he recommends the frequent use of Riding, or any other sort of Exercise; yet at the bottom look upon it as a forlorn method, and the Effect rather of his Inability to relieve 'em, than of his belief that there is any great matter in what he advises: Thus by a negligent Diffidence they deceive themselves and let slip the Golden Opportunities of recovering, by a diligent Struggle, what could not be procured by the Use of Medicine alone."


At the age of 18, the Italian Giovanni Maria Lancisi (1654-1720) graduated as a medical doctor at the University of Rome and became successively private physician of the Popes Innocent XI (1611-1689), Innocent XII (1615-1700) and Clementius XI (1649-1721). At the request of Clementius XI he wrote the thesis 'De subitaneis mortibus' (About the sudden death) to explain the increasing number of sudden deaths in Rome. Lancisi devoted that sudden death to cerebral haemorrhage, vegetating of the heart valves, and cardiac hypertrophy and dilatation. In 'De motu cordis et aneurysmatibus', another famous work from 1728, he described the various causes of heart enlargement and he was also the first to mention syphilis as the cause of aneurysms, with which he made a striking contribution to the knowledge of cardiac pathology. Lancini also described unusual structures at the entrance of the aorta.


The English physician Sir John Floyer (1649-1734) invented the 'one minute pulse watch' for a correct pulse measurement. Floyer was one of the first to measure the pulse in daily practice. He noted his measurements and observations with which he wanted to establish a relationship between the pulse and other parameters, such as respiratory rhythm, temperature, barometer reading, age, gender, season and even the climate zone in which the measurements were made. In the beginning he used for his time recording the minute hand of a pendulum clock.

He asked horlogist Samuel Watson (1687-1710), a protege of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), to customize a watch for his pulse registration. Apart from a second hand, the pulse watch also had a special lever that could stop the mechanism. With this new device he calculated the precise ratio between blood and body weight. It was the first stopwatch, running exactly sixty seconds and specially manufactured for counting the number of pulses per minute. The 'Pulse Watch' was inspired by both Galen (129-200) and Sanctorius (1561-1636). Floyer used the device to obtain accurate pulse rate measurements, instead of describing them as 'weak', 'fast', or 'galloping', making it the first doctor to accurately chronograph the pulse.


In 1713 German physician Michael Bernhard Valentini (1657-1725) used 'pulse diagrams' in his daily practice.


The German doctor and chemist Friedrich Hoffmann (1660-1742) obtained his doctorate with experimental research on the effects of physical activity on the human cardiovascular system and on digestion.


The Graham Desagulier Dynamometer was invented by George Graham (1673-1751) and mentioned in the writings of Jean Desaguliers (1683-1744). The device worked via a lever and by adjusting a sliding weight on the balance arm until the contracted muscle could lift the net.

George Graham (1673-1751) was an English horlogist and inventor. Jean Desaguliers (1683-1744) was a British natural philosopher born in France who was awarded the prestigious Copley award from the Royal London Society for his discovery of the properties of electricity in 1741.


The French physician Nicolas Andry de Boisregard (1658-1742), was also dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Paris.

He published 'L'Orthopédie ou l'Art de prévenir et de corriger dans les enfants les difformités du corps', in which he gave a detailed description of a therapy with physical exercises.