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JAMA Revisited
June 28, 2016

The Centennial of the Stethoscope

JAMA. 2016;315(24):2738. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.17091

One of the great steps in the advancement of internal medicine was the discovery of auscultation. One hundred years ago, in 1816, Laennec, a favorite pupil of Corvisart, was appointed to the position of chief physician at the Necker Hospital in Paris. He was then 35 years of age. There he began his early studies on mediate auscultation with an instrument to which he gave the name of stethoscope, derived from the words στηθος, the breast, and σκοπεω, examine. Hippocrates, says Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, himself might have invented it, and would at once have understood it. Then followed the naming of sounds natural and diseased, throughout all the respiratory divisions, and after them the sounds of the heart, internal and external. We hold the literature thus founded, the language thus invented, to the present hour, the biographer writes; it is as familiar in our mouths as household words.

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