The History of the Reflex Hammer

April 15, 2013

Did you know the first hammers weren’t used for reflexes? They were initially used for percussion. The first hammer used for percussion was created by a Scottish physician Sir David Barry in the early 1800’s. In 1870, Wilhelm Heinrich Erb recognized the diagnostic use of the percussion hammer in the patellar (or knee-erk) reflex. Together with Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal, they published a paper describing the various preferences for eliciting reflexes. The first official reflex hammer was created by a Philadelphia neurologist, John Madison Taylor in 1888.


Since this time, a number a reflex hammers have were created as shown in the picture below. Despite this long history, the reflex hammer still has a valuable place in modern medicine. To learn more about the history of the reflex hammer, click this link to be taken to a full article by Dr. Francisco Pinto.

Interested in learning more about the technique of eliciting reflexes? Visit the Stanford Medicine 25 website reflexes section here.

Subscribe to our mailing list