Celebrating the stethoscope...how doctors learned to see with their ears

The stethoscope is the badge of the doctor for the very good reason that it enables them to ‘see’ inside the chest. But of course the seeing is done by listening: the doctors hears your heart beating and your lungs expanding and contracting, and interprets their sounds to come to a diagnosis.

Doctors didn’t always have this skill, nor this instrument. It was invented 200 years ago, and we are celebrating its bicentenary. The inventor, RenĂ© Laennec, devised a rigid wooden cylinder which was necessarily monaural. Yet Laennec’s device was enough to make the interior of the living body capable of being visualised.

We have a Laennec-pattern stethoscope (one of very few in the world), and are using this to commemorate Laennec’s remarkable breakthrough. You can read more on these web pages or download our brochure.

Latest events

Watch this space for upcoming events from the Laennec Stethoscope.

Jacalyn Duffin - The Invention of the Stethoscope and the Birth of Physical Diagnosis. Watch Jacalyn's brilliant talk given at the University of Leeds on 14 March 2017.

Stethoscope Stories

As part of our project we've been asking some colleagues and medical school alumni to tell us about their memories of using a stethoscope - these are our Stethoscope Stories.

Our first story is from Professor James Drife.

Stethoscope Stories

Dr Alan Mackintosh.

Stethoscope Stories

Professor Peter Howdle.