René Théophile Hyacinthe Laënnec was born on 17 February 1781 in Quimper and spent much of his youth in Nantes, where his uncle Guillaume was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. He was considerably influenced by his uncle and went to study medicine in Paris where he qualified in 1804. Among his teachers were Corvisart and Bayle who stimulated his interest in the clinical diagnosis of diseases of the chest and especially tuberculosis, from which Laënnec himself suffered. His clinical experience and morbid anatomical dissections at the Necker Hospital culminated in his invention of the stethoscope (1816) and the writing of his masterpiece De l'Auscultation Médiate (1819) which may be regarded as the pioneer treatise from which modern chest medicine has evolved. Despite his great success in Paris, laënnec always retained a great love for his native Brittany. When his health finally broke down, he returned to his home Kerlouarnec, near Quimper, and died there on 13 August 1826, aged 45 years. On the occasion of the bicentenary of his birth we pay homage to the memory of this great French physician.
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