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.