Rene Laennec examining a patient, 1816.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Reconstruction in the Lower Wellcome Gallery, Science Museum, London, showing French physician Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laennec (1781-1826), examining a patient with a stethoscope at the Necker Hospital in Paris. Laennec devised the first stethoscope in 1816 while chief physician at the Necker. It consisted of a single hollow tube; the familiar binaural stethoscope, with rubber tubing going to both ears, was not developed until the 1850s. Regarded as the father of chest medicine, Laennec demonstrated the importance of the instrument in diagnosing diseases of the lungs, heart and vascular systems. Ironically, he died of tuberculosis.