Reflex hammers: Historical perspective



Several versions of the Wintrich hammer, the first

popular percussion hammer. (Left) The original version

(1841); (center) a later modification by Wintrich (1854); and

(right) Ebstein’s modification, the “repex and sensibility

tester” (1912)

William Gowers recommended eliciting the knee

jerk by striking the patellar tendon with the ulnar surface

of the hand (left) or apercwsion hammer (right)


S. Weir Mitchell examining Cioil War veterans at

the Infirmary for Nervous Disease in Philadelphia

(January, 1902). In his right hand, Mitchell is holding a

Taylor hammer. J. Madison Taylor is seated to the right of

the patient. 

(A) William Christopher Krauss.

(B) The Krauss reflex hammer (1904).

The Berliner reflex hammer (1910). (Photograph

courtesy of the Dittrick Museum of Medical History,

Cleveland, OH).


The 2 reflex hammers

illustrated by Babinski in his

1912 monograph.24 The one on

the right has come to be called a

“Babinski hammer.”


(A) The hammer that Babinski gave to Abraham

Rabiner, and that Rabiner later gave to Robert J.

Schwartzman. (Photograph courtesy of Robert

Schwartzman, MD). (B) The Rabiner reflex hammer. The

head can be attached parallel (left) or perpendicular (right)

to the shaft


The Vernon percussion hammer (1858)12 was the

precursor of the Queen Square reflex hammer.


From: The History of Reflex hammers: Neurology 1989; 39: 1542-1549