Who invented a stethoscope? Must have been a genius, right?

Stethoscope Inventor: Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laënnec (1781-1826)

A stethoscope was invented by a French physician, Laennec in 1816. He was a doctor at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris when he first had the idea for the stethoscope. Dr. Laennec was caring for a young girl who was too shy to have him listen to her chest directly. So, he rolled up a sheet of paper and placed it against her chest. He held his ear to the other end of the paper “tube” and was able to hear her heartbeat just fine.

Below is a portrait of Rene Laennec; the inventor of body listening device

Below is a portrait of Rene Laennec; the inventor of stethoscope

This gave him the idea to create a stethoscope out of wood and metal. The first stethoscopes were made out of two wooden tubes, one for each ear. They were connected by a small metal disk in the middle. The two tubes acted as amplifiers, making it easier to hear heart and lung sounds.

Mediate Auscultation: Indirect Listening Device

Rene who was alive from 1781 to 1826 wrote his seminal work on listening to body sounds in 1819, De L’auscultation Mediate (On Mediate Auscultation) translated as ‘Indirect Listening’. It evolved out of an early French school of bedside empiricism, which combined physical diagnosis with autopsy analysis.

Mediate Auscultation, research done by Rene Laennec on Indirect Listening Device or the Stethoscope in 1819, 3 years after invention of the Stethoscope.

Below is an image of how the first stethoscope design looked like;

Figure 1. Laënnec’s stethoscope: 1) instrument assembled; 2) and 3) two portions of the instrument in longitudinal section; 4) detachable chest piece; 5) ear piece unscrewed; 6) transverse section. Photo courtesy of the US National Library of Medicine.

Laennec’s stethoscope had a detachable chest piece that could be placed directly on the patient’s chest. The earpieces were attached to the chest piece with a screw. Laennec’s stethoscope was much more comfortable to use than earlier versions. It was also more sensitive, making it easier to hear faint sounds.

Memorial for Inventor of Stethoscope

At the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris, there is now a memorial for Rene Laennec, the man who invented the stethoscope. Below is an image from Wikipedia about Laennec’s memorial in Paris

The modern stethoscope was invented in 1851 by George Camman. He was a New York City doctor who designed a stethoscope with two ear tubes that could be held in place by the user’s teeth. This design is still used today. Laennec’s original stethoscope design is on display at the Museum of the History of Medicine in Paris. The stethoscope is one of the most important tools in a doctor’s arsenal. It has saved countless lives and continues to be an essential part of medicine.

Death of the inventor of the Stethoscope

10 years after the invention of the stethoscope, Rene Laennec died of Tuberculosis in 1926. He was just 45 years old.

The stethoscope quickly became an important tool for doctors. It has helped diagnose many diseases, including pneumonia and heart disease.

It wasn’t until 1851 that a stethoscope was finally patented in the United States. Dr. George Camman was the one who filed for the patent. His stethoscope was similar to Laennec’s original design, but it had a few improvements. For example, Camman’s stethoscope had a rubber earpiece which made it more comfortable to use.

Today, stethoscopes come in all shapes and sizes. But they all still work on the same basic principle as Laennec’s original design. They use two tubes to amplify sound and make it easier to hear what’s going on inside the body. Check out our reviews of the best stethoscopes available in the market today.


Q: Who invented the stethoscope?

A: The stethoscope was invented by French physician René Laennec in 1816.

Q: How does a stethoscope work?

A: A stethoscope amplifies sound using two tubes. One tube goes to the earpiece and the other goes to the chest piece. The chest piece is placed on the patient’s chest, and the doctor can hear the amplified sound through the earpiece.

Q: How is Rene’s stethoscope different from today’s stethoscopes?

A: Rene’s stethoscope was the first of its kind and it used two wooden tubes. Today’s stethoscopes are made of different materials, such as plastic or metal, and they often have a second earpiece so that both of the doctor’s ears can hear the amplified sound.

Q: Who was Rene Laennec?

A: Rene Laennec is a French physician who invented the stethoscope in 1816.