Orginal Publication Date
MCV/Q, Medical College of Virginia Quarterly
Before percussion and mediate auscultation were discovered, methods of physical examination – in particular chest examination – were limited. Only observation was used with any regularity. From the time of Hippocrates, palpation and direct auscultation had been used sporadically to detect heartbeats but had not proved to be of practical value because clinicopathological correlation had not yet been established. At last, when a new method called percussion was conceived by Auenbrugger in 1761, it was ignored for almost forty years. Not until the French School evolved did percussion become established, largely through Corvisart, Napoleon’s private physician. Coincident with the revival of percussion, Laennec, another physician of the French School, invented the stethoscope and mediate auscultation. How remarkable that these two methods of chest examination came into use at the same time and in a period of history when chest disease – especially tuberculosis – was rampant!
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