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MONAURAL STETHOSCOPE

The monaural (i.e. for one ear) stethoscope was invented in 1816 by Rene Laennec. This is one of the Museum’s earliest examples and dates to the mid-19th Century. Modern doctors use binaural stethoscopes with two ear pieces, but the monaural stethoscope is still used today to listen to the heartbeat of unborn babies through their mother’s skin. Laennec is considered to be the father of chest medicine, largely for his invention of the stethoscope as a way to listen to chest sounds in order to diagnose illness. The story goes that, when presented with a young, female patient, decorum prevented Laennec from pressing his ear directly to the patient’s chest in order to listen to her heart and lungs. Therefore, he used several rolles up sheets of paper to project the sounds so that he could listen without making physical contact.