Happy Birthday, Dr. Laënnec: The Karabots Junior Fellows Commemorate 200 Years of the Stethoscope

Two students from the Karabots Junior Fellows Program experiment with a Laënnec stethoscope

Today is the 235th birthday of Rene Laënnec, the inventor of one of the mainstays of the medical professional’s toolkit: the stethoscope. As it turns out, 2016 also marks the 200th anniversary of the stethoscope.

In honor of the device’s bicentennial, the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia hosted an exhibition of some of the stethoscopes in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s vast collection. There were also stethoscopes on loan from Thomas Jefferson University Archives and three private collections. On display were stethoscopes past and present, including one owned by William Osler and both an original and a more modern facsimile of Laënnec’s original design.

Students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program were on hand to examine the collection, learning facts about the stethoscope from our very own CEPI Director Jacqui Bowman who organized the exhibition in collaboration with George Davis, MD.

The Karabots Junior Fellows meet with CEPI Director Jacqui Bowman to learn about the history of the stethoscope

After exploring the exhibit, the Fellows broke into groups to try their hand at conducting their own auscultations (the technical term for an examination with a stethoscope). They also compared past and present technology by experimenting with a recreation of a Civil War stethoscope in an attempt to learn which was more efficient at detecting a heartbeat.

Karabots Junior Fellows experiment with giving each other auscultations

In March 2016, look out for a mini exhibit on monaural stethoscopes in our CEPI display case near the Koop Education Center here at the College of Physicians.