René Laennec stumbled upon the design of the stethoscope while treating a female patient in 1816 at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris.

According to Laennec's own account, the young woman in question seemed to be suffering from what he described as symptoms of diseased heart. Unable to use the regular method of diagnosis in such a case (as the common method of putting the ear to the chest would be inapplicable in the case of the patient's age and gender), René Laennec recollected a simple and well-known fact in acoustics, the great distinctness with which we hear the scratch of a pin at one end of a piece of wood on applying our ear to the other.

Laennec built his first stethoscope as a 25 cm by 2.5 cm hollow wooden cylinder, which he later refined to comprise three detachable parts. His clinical work allowed him to follow chest patients from bedside to the autopsy table.

Laennec was the first to classify and discuss the terms rales, rhonchi, crepitance, and egophony – terms that doctors now use on a daily basis during physical exams and diagnoses.

After Laennec, Irish physician Arthur Leared invented the modern binaural stethoscope with two ear pieces in 1851 and George Cammann  perfected the design of the instrument for commercial production in 1852, which has become the standard ever since.

courtesy: mid-day

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