The History of the Stethoscope

2 Jul

The first stethoscope was invented in France in 1846 and looked nothing like the stethoscope of today – far from being soft and flexible, it was made from wood and resembled a bathroom plunger.


That’s because it was based on the ear trumpet – a cone-like device used as a primitive hearing aid.

The modern stereo stethoscope was developed by Rappaport and Sprague in the 1940s. This model was acoustic, short, heavy and expensive. It came in a fancy walnut box and retailed for $300. Some were even gold-plated.

Great strides were made during the 1960s and 1970s in improving the materials used in acoustic stethoscopes, leading to more precise diagnoses, lower prices and better comfort.

Some doctors developed a “perfect pitch” through their stethoscopes – a talented professor named Dr. W. Proctor Harvey became a “virtuoso” who could diagnose complex heart conditions just by listening to a patient’s heartbeat!

Keeping up with the Internet age, stethoscopes went electronic in the early 2000s. This great leap in technology provided precision volume control, ambient noise reduction, and wireless capabilities to record heartbeats into computers for analysis by software.

While electronic models are superior for certain functions (such as listening to fetal heartbeats), acoustic stethoscopes still remain the more widely popular choice.

At, we carry all types of “modern” stethoscope, from the very basic single head model to the most sophisticated electronic models, which we recognize are a crucial component to your every-day work life. With options ranging from custom engraving to fashion right colors- it’s hard to imagine that this piece of equipment was once little more than a bathroom plunger.


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