Laënnec, René Théophile Hyacinthe

Laënnec, René Théophile Hyacinthe
SUBJECT AREA: Medical technology
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b. 16 February 1781 Quimper, France
d. 13 August 1826 Paris, France
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French physician, inventor of the stethoscope.
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Laënnec commenced his medical career assisting his uncle, a physician of Nantes, Brittany. On moving to Paris he studied under Corvisart, Napoleon's friend and personal physician, and Dupuytren. Appointed Physician to the Necker Hospital in 1816, his difficulties in examining an obese patient led him to make a roll of paper and, placing one end on the patient's chest and his ear to the other, he found that he could hear the heart sounds much more clearly; although auscultation had been practised in medicine since the time of Hippocrates (fl. 400 BC), its inconvenience and distastefulness made the stethoscope an instrument which soon gained wide acceptance. As a consequence, a large number of new auditory phenomena were reported in the immediately ensuing years. In his book, published in 1819, he described the instrument as "a cylinder of wood an inch and a half in diameter and a foot long, perforated by a bore three lines wide and hollowed out into a funnel shape at one of its extremities".
By now he had contracted tuberculosis and retired to Brittany to recover. In 1822 he accepted the Chair of Medicine in the College of France, but he suffered a relapse and died four years later, ironically of the same disease that his invention had done so much to facilitate the diagnosis of.
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Bibliography
1819, Traité de l'auscultation médiate, Paris.
Further Reading
W.Hale-White, 1923, Laënnec: Translation of Selected Papers from "de l"Auscultation médiate', with a Biography, London.
H.Saintignon, 1904, Laënnec, sa vie et son oeuvre, Paris. Z.Cope, 1957, Sidelights from the History of Medicine.
MG

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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