Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Stethoscope with a Song

  • Geoffrey D Huntley Mayo Medical School
Keywords: stethoscope, history, poetry


September of 2016 marked the 200th anniversary of the invention of the stethoscope by French physician Réné Laennec on September 13, 1816. Since his original version made of a cylindrical pad of paper, the trajectory of the physical exam was altered. Shortly after the design of the stethoscope and as enthusiasm for the new technology began to spread, Harvard physician and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes warned physicians of the gander of over-reliance on new technology in an 1848 satirical poem titled, "The Stethoscope Song; a Professional Ballad." Every new technology comes with its own limitations, and it is with realizing these limitations that a technological advance becomes genuinely useful. The stethoscope has continued to be an essential tool for every physician for 200 years because we have determined its advantages in context with its restrictions.

Author Biography

Geoffrey D Huntley, Mayo Medical School

Geoffrey Huntley is an M.D. candidate at Mayo Medical School.


Nuland, Sherwin B. Doctors: The Biography of Medicine. 2nd ed. New York: Vintage, 1995. 220-237. Print.

Willius, Fredrick A., and Thomas E. Keys. "The Stethoscope Song; A Professional Ballad; by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Cardiac Classics; a Collection of Classic Works on the Heart and Circulation, with Comprehensive Biographic Accounts of the Authors; Fifty-two Contributions. St. Louis: C.V. Mosby, 1941. 831-833. Print.