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Dr. Littmann's Legacy

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brief history the stethoscope

Advancing the art of listening through the years.

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When French physician René Laënnec invented the first stethoscope in 1816, it was simply a rolled-up paper tube that funneled sounds from his patients’ chest to his ear. It was not until the early 1960s that Dr. David Littmann, M.D., (1906-1981), would patent a revolutionary new stethoscope design that was lighter, more convenient to carry and use, and with vastly improved acoustical performance.

In this timeline, see how Dr. Littmann’s legacy has provided medical professionals like you with consistent high acoustic performance, as well as enhanced comfort for your patients.


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3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes: A Brief History

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  • 1979: For Demanding Physicians

    The Cardiology Stethoscope is introduced, featuring improved acoustic performance, and more. Improvements continued over the decades.

    1984: More Sounds with Less Hassle

    3M™ patents Tunable Technology which enables users to hear high or low frequency sounds without repositioning the stethoscope chestpiece.

    1988–2006: The March of Technological Progression

    Many stethoscopes received upgrades as technology advanced. The Classic II Pediatric, Cardiology III, and Lightweight II S.E. were some of them.

    2015: The Next Generation Rises

    The 3M™ Littmann® Classic III Stethoscope was introduced, featuring longer-lasting tubing that had improved resistance to skin oils and alcohol.

    2016: Advancing the Legacy

    3M™ Littmann® Cardiology IV Stethoscopes were introduced during 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes’ “50 Years of Listening” anniversary

    1967: 3M™ Welcomes a New Partner

    In April 1967, 3M™ acquired Dr. Littmann’s company, Cardiosonics. Dr. Littmann would then work as an adviser to help further develop his invention.

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    View stethoscopes in the 3M™ Littmann® range

    • 3M™ Littmann® Cardiology Series

      Sturdy, refined, and designed for superior acoustic performance.

    • 3M™ Littmann® Classic Series

      Compact, sensitive and lightweight, it’s perfect for general physical assessments and diagnoses.

    • 3M™ Littmann® Lightweight Series

      The lightest adult stethoscope in the range. Suitable for basic assessments.


    Ready to purchase a 3M™ Littmann® stethoscope? Here’s where you can get one online.

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