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Piorry type monaural stethoscope, Europe, 1830-1880

French physician René Théophile Laennec (1781-1826) invented the stethoscope in 1816. Stethoscopes listen to the sounds of the body’s operation. These sounds are indicators of the body’s functioning. The heart is usually listened to. However, the lungs and intestines also reveal characteristic sounds. The original design was made of wood and brass. It consisted of a single hollow tube. This early adaptation is by Pierre Adolphe Piorry (1794-1879) from 1829. It is trumpet-shaped and made of wood. It was thinner and lighter than its forerunner. It kept to a single ivory earpiece used by Laennec and a chest piece. Stethoscopes with two earpieces (binaural) were introduced in the 1850s. The stethoscope hanging around the neck has been a symbol of the scientific doctor.

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Glossary: stethoscope

A device which is used to listen to sounds produced by the human body. Ordinarily a stethoscope consists of rubber tubing in the shape of a Y.

Glossary: clinical diagnosis

A diagnosis given based on the signs and symptoms of a disease.