Did you know that René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laennec was born today in 1781? He was a French physician and invented the stethoscope. A stethoscope is a device used to listen to the sounds your circulatory, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems make such as your heart beat or a cough. These sounds help doctors diagnose diseases and medical conditions. René Laennec’s stethoscope was different from the one you see in doctor’s offices now. His stethoscope was a hollow wooden cylinder about 25 cm long and 2.5 cm wide.
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René Laennec created the term “auscultation” which is the practice of listening to the internal sounds of the body. It is used to examine the circulatory, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. ‘Immediate auscultation’ involves the physician putting their ear directly on the patient’s body. ‘Mediate auscultation’ involves using an instrument, such as a stethoscope.
René Laennec was the first to classify the sounds he heard in the respiratory system. The terms he created are still used by physicians today. René Laennec also studied peritonitis, cirrhosis, melanoma, and tuberculosis.
The name stethoscope comes from the words ‘stethos’, meaning chest, and ‘skopos’, meaning examination.
Even though the stethoscope provided a clearer and more distinct sound, it was not immediately accepted. Although introduced in 1821, even in 1885 physicians were instructed to use their ears only and not stethoscopes.
The binaural stethoscope we commonly see today was invented by Arthur Leared in 1851 and improved by George Philip Cammann in 1852.