The History of Pulmonary Function Testing

  • Tianshi David Wu
  • Meredith C. McCormackEmail author
  • Wayne Mitzner
Part of the Respiratory Medicine book series (RM)


Pulmonary function testing has a rich and diverse history. Since the time of ancient Greece, we have endeavored to understand the processes that regulate our breathing in health and disease. To augment this understanding, there are many extensive published histories of pulmonary function and physiology, and the reader is advised to seek out further details as listed in the Selected References. Within the confines of the present book, this chapter will focus on selected highlights relevant to clinical pulmonary function testing, through which we hope that the reader can gain a deeper understanding of the different tests as each is done today.

We have therefore chosen to organize this chapter by test, as one would see on a typical PFT result sheet: spirometry, lung volumes, diffusing capacity, and bronchoprovocation. Indeed, we hope it will become clear how the history of each test often rests on parallel developmental pathways, tracing the origin from different disciplines and carried forward by different technologies.


History Equipment Pulmonary function testing Spirometer Body plethysmograph Diffusion 



The authors wish to thank Dr. Jimmie Sylvester for his insight and very helpful comments critiquing an earlier version of this document.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tianshi David Wu
    • 1
  • Meredith C. McCormack
    • 2
    Email author
  • Wayne Mitzner
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care MedicineJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Pulmonary Function Laboratory, Pulmonary and Critical Care MedicineJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Health and EngineeringJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA

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