Laennec was a gifted student, he learned English and German, and began his medical studies under his uncle's direction. His father (a lawyer) later discouraged him from continuing as a doctor and René then had a period of time where he took long walks in the country, danced, studied Greek and wrote poetry. However, in 1799 he returned to study. Laennec studied medicine in Paris under several famous physicians, including Dupuytren and Jean-Nicolas Corvisart-Desmarets. There he was trained to use sound as a diagnostic aid. He was noted as a very kind man and his charity to the poor became proverbial.
In 1816, I was consulted by a young woman laboring under general symptoms of diseased heart, and in whose case percussion and the application of the hand were of little avail on account of the great degree of fatness. The other method just mentioned [direct auscultation] being rendered inadmissible by the age and sex of the patient, I happened to recollect a simple and well-known fact in acoustics, ... the great distinctness with which we hear the scratch of a pin at one end of a piece of wood on applying our ear to the other.
Immediately, on this suggestion, I rolled a quire of paper into a kind of cylinder and applied one end of it to the region of the heart and the other to my ear, and was not a little surprised and pleased to find that I could thereby perceive the action of the heart in a manner much more clear and distinct than I had ever been able to do by the immediate application of my ear.
Laennec was the first to classify and discuss the termsrales, rhonchi, crepitance, and egophony – terms that doctors now use on a daily basis during physical exams and diagnoses. In February 1818, he presented his findings in a talk at the Academie de Medecin, later publishing his findings in 1819. Laennec coined the phrase mediate auscultation (indirect listening), as opposed to the popular practice at the time of directly placing the ear on the chest (immediate auscultation).
Laennec developed the understanding of peritonitis and cirrhosis. Although the disease of cirrhosis was known, Laennec gave cirrhosis its name, using the Greek word (kirrhos, tawny) that referred to the tawny, yellow nodules characteristic of the disease. He coined the term melanoma and described metastases of melanoma to the lungs. In 1804, while still a medical student, he was the first person to lecture on melanoma. This lecture was subsequently published in 1805.
Laennec actually used the term 'melanose,' which he derived from the Greek (mela, melan) for "black." Over the years, there were bitter exchanges between Laennec and Dupuytren, the latter objecting that there was no mention of his work in this area and his role in its discovery.
He also studied tuberculosis. Laennec advocated objective scientific observation. Professor Benjamin Ward Richardson stated in Disciples of Aesculapius that "the true student of medicine reads Laennec's treatise on mediate auscultation and the use of the stethoscope once in two years at least as long as he is in practice. It ranks with the original work of Vesalius, Harvey and Hippocrates."
Stethoscopes can also be used to check scientific vacuum chambers for leaks, and for various other small-scale acoustic monitoring tasks. A stethoscope that intensifies auscultatory sounds is called phonendoscope.
The medical historian Jacalyn Duffin has argued that the invention of the stethoscope marked a major step in the redefinition of disease from being a bundle of symptoms, to the current sense of a disease as a problem with an anatomical system even if there are no noticeable symptoms. This re-conceptualiization occurred in part, Duffin argues, because prior to the stethoscopes, there were no non-lethal instruments for exploring internal anatomy
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Despite a bad relation with father, forced to study business & botany; this swiss followed his passion for Maths & physics !!!