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Most people don’t know anything about the stethoscopes besides the fact that they are used by doctors on a daily basis to hear the sounds of the organs inside the patient’s body.
However, most of us don’t know that this device is actually highly interesting, and it has a complicated design with many parts that work together for it to function correctly.
That said, we will talk about the history of the stethoscope, how the first models worked, how it changed the lives of doctors and the modern medicine, and most importantly, why was the stethoscope invented.
Why Was the Stethoscope Invented?
The word stethoscope comes from the combination of two Greek words namely stethos and skopein. Stethos means chest, while skopein means exploring or exploration, so literally, stethoscope means exploring the chest. In the modern day, stethoscopes have become the central symbol of someone being a medical professional, especially since doctors are always depicted as wearing one in children’s books or even adult media.
The simple answer to this question is that stethoscopes were invented so that the doctors would have an easier time diagnosing the patients and finding out what is wrong with them. However, there is a more exciting story hiding behind this.
Who Invented the Stethoscope?
The stethoscope was invented by Rene Laennec, who was a French physician. Laennec created the first stethoscope in 1816 and later published a critical work where he described the benefits of listening to the sounds that the human body makes using his device.
The autopsies confirmed his theories and diagnoses which was a shock to the medical world at that time. Afterward, the much respected Laennec was the first to discover many critical conditions and illnesses in the human chest, more specifically the lungs. He was the one who identified diseases such as bronchiectasis, pneumonia, and cirrhosis.
Many of the medical terms that Laennec first introduced are still being used today, and his work is held high among the circles of medical experts. For those reasons, he is considered the father of the clinical listening and examining the human bodies from inside in such a way.
How Was the Stethoscope Invented?
One morning, while he was in front of the Le Louvre Palace in Paris, Dr. Rene Laennec, who was aged 35 at that time, spotted two children harmlessly playing with some sticks and a pin. The children were having fun by amplifying the sound from one end of the park to another by creating the high-frequency noise with a pin and placing their ears on the piece of solid wood stick. He quickly forgot about this seemingly unimportant moment, but it would later prove vital to the future of humankind.
A few months later, Laennec was supposed to help an attractive young woman who had heart problems. Putting his hand to her chest didn’t quite help him. In that age, it was entirely inappropriate to put his head to her bosom and try to hear the sounds her heart was making.
Feeling uncomfortable, but still determined to help his young patient, Laennec remembered the children playing in the park, and an idea was quickly born in his head. Thus, the first iteration of the stethoscope came about. Although far from what Laennec managed to create, later on, it was sufficient to help diagnose the young lady.
In the next few months, he experimented with various tube shapes, sizes, and materials, trying to find a perfect design for listening to the patient’s lungs and heart. After many failures and different design choices, he decided on using a wooden tube with a diameter of 3.5 centimeters and a length of 25 centimeters. It had a plug attached to it, which made it portable and it could be disassembled on the spot.
The Evolution of Stethoscopes
The 3.5-centimeter wooden tube created by Rene Laennec was the world’s first stethoscope. Still, it can be considered only a prototype, as much more effective devices were created not long afterward.
In 1819, only three years after the first model was introduced, many doctors and scientists started experimenting with the idea. Thus, the bell and diaphragm variations were born, and not many years later, people even had stethoscopes with two tubes and rubber endings for more comfort.
As you can see, creating the world’s first stethoscope wasn’t quite as dull as you expected it to be. Surely, you hadn’t anticipated a story this fun when you asked yourself why was the stethoscope invented.
Inventing this device, that is still vital to doctors all over the world, involves a correlation between two naive children playing around with sticks in the park and a gentlemanly doctor who was treating a young lady.
Nowadays, stethoscopes are more modern and designed with many additional features to further enhance the doctor’s capabilities in helping patients and curing any potential life-threatening diseases.