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A black tubular device, about the size of a flashlight, sits vertically on a yellow bright yellow background and casts a harsh shadow. The device has two silver bands and the text "insta-pulse" in the middle.

Insta-Pulse heart rate monitor: A closer look at a landmark tool

The Insta-Pulse personal heart rate monitor is part of the archival collection of renowned cardiologist and peace activist Bernard Lown.
Written by Amy Roeder
Amy Roeder
Photography by Kent Dayton
Kent Dayton
October 3, 2022
Read Time
1 min
Featured In
Fall 2022

“A totally new concept in heart rate measurement,” BioSig promised when it released its Insta-Pulse device in the 1970s. Thought to be the first heart rate monitor developed for the consumer fitness market, it allowed people to check their pulses on the go by grasping the panels at both ends. The device, invented by BioSig founder Gregory Lekhtman, is still commercially available and its technology has been incorporated into fitness machines.

The model pictured is part of the Bernard Lown collection in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health archives at Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicine, which includes records from his long career as a cardiologist, researcher, and nuclear war activist.

Amy Roeder
Amy Roeder is a senior editor at Harvard Public Health. Read more from Amy Roeder.
Kent Dayton
Kent Dayton is the senior photo editor and staff photographer at Harvard Public Health.
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