|Born||19 November 1722
Graz, Duchy of Styria
|Died||17 May 1809
Vienna, Austrian Empire
|Known for||percussion (medicine)|
Josef Leopold Auenbrugger or Leopold von Auenbrugg (19 November 1722 – 17 May 1809) was the Austrian physician who invented percussion as a diagnostic technique. On the strength of this discovery, he is considered one of the founders of modern medicine.
Auenbrugger was a native of Graz in Styria, an Austrian province. His father, a hotel keeper, gave his son every opportunity for an excellent preliminary education in his native town and then sent him to Vienna to complete his studies at the university. Auenbrugger was graduated as a physician at the age of 22 and then entered the Spanish Military Hospital of Vienna, where he spent 10 years.
He found out that, by applying his ear to the patient and tapping lightly on the chest, one could assess the texture of underlying tissues and organs. This technique of percussive diagnosis had its origins in testing the level of wine casks in the cellar of his father's hotel. With this method, he was able to plot outlines of the heart. It was the first time that a physician could relatively accurately and objectively determine an important sign of diseases. He published his findings in a booklet, but nobody paid much attention to it.
During his ten years of patient study, Auenbrugger confirmed his observations on the diagnostic value of percussion by comparison with post-mortem specimens, and besides made a number of experimental researches on dead bodies. He injected fluid into the pleural cavity, and showed that it was perfectly possible by percussion to tell exactly the limits of the fluid present, and thus to decide when and where efforts should be made for its removal.
His later studies were devoted to tuberculosis. He pointed out how to detect cavities of the lungs, and how their location and size might be determined by percussion. He also recognized that information with regard to the contents of cavities in the lungs and conditions of lung tissue might be obtained by placing the hand on the chest and noting the vibration, or fremitus, produced by the voice and breath. These observations were published in a little book called Inventum Novum ex Percussione Thoracis Humani Interni Pectoris Morbos Detegendi, the full English title being "A New Discovery that Enables the Physician from the Percussion of the Human Thorax to Detect the Diseases Hidden Within the Chest". It is considered a book that marks an epoch in the modern history of medicine.
Like most medical discoveries, Auenbrugger's method of diagnosis at first met with indifference. Before his death, however, it had aroused the attention of French physician René Laennec, who, following up the ideas suggested by it, discovered auscultation. The value of percussion in physical examination was later recognized by Jean-Nicolas Corvisart, who popularized it teaching it to his students in France, and by Josef Skoda in Vienna. He also translated and illustrated Auenbrugger's book in 1808, which helped to make Auenbrugger's work on percussion better known.
Auenbrugger lived to a happy old age. He was especially noted for his cordial relations with the younger members of his profession and for his kindness to the poor and to those suffering from tuberculosis. He is sometimes said to have died in the typhus epidemic of 1798, but he actually died over a decade later.
Further reading 
- Steudel, Johannes (1970). "Auenbrugger, Jose". Dictionary of Scientific Biography 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 332–333. ISBN 0-684-10114-9.
- "Auenbrugger von Auenbrug, Leopold". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.
- "Leopold Auenbrugger". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Auenbrugger, Leopold von". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
- Doctors:The History of Medicine through Biography Sherwin B. Nuland
- Pearce, J M S (2008). "Leopold Auenbrugger: camphor-induced epilepsy – remedy for manic psychosis". Eur. Neurol. (Switzerland) 59 (1–2): 105–7. doi:10.1159/000109581. PMID 17934285.
- Persson, Eddie (2005). "[Mozart's musical physicians]". Lakartidningen (Sweden) 102 (4): 236–40. ISSN 0023-7205. PMID 15743135.
- O'Neal, J C (1998). "Auenbrugger, Corvisart, and the perception of disease". Eighteenth-century studies (UNITED STATES) 31 (4): 473–89. doi:10.1353/ecs.1998.0040. PMID 11623707.
- Bloch, H (February 1993). "The fathers of percussion". The Journal of family practice (UNITED STATES) 36 (2): 232. ISSN 0094-3509. PMID 8426145.
- Fontanini, F (May. 1986). "[Leopold Auenbrugger and chest percussion]". Giornale italiano di cardiologia (ITALY) 16 (5): 445–6. ISSN 0046-5968. PMID 3525304.
- Landsberger, M (December 1981). "Percussion discovered". Transactions & studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (UNITED STATES) 3 (4): 255. ISSN 0010-1087. PMID 7043816.
- Schwartze, D (December 1972). "[Johann Leopold Auenbrugger. 250th birthday of the inventor of percussion]". Das Deutsche Gesundheitswesen (GERMANY, EAST) 27 (50): 2397–9. ISSN 0012-0219. PMID 4568475.
- Kukowka, A (November 1972). "[Leopold Auenbrugger, nobleman of Auenbrugg (1722–1809) inventor of thorax percussion. 250th anniversary]". Zeitschrift für Allgemeinmedizin (GERMANY, WEST) 48 (32): 1502–10. ISSN 0300-8673. PMID 4575935.
- Rosen, G (October 1972). "Percussion and nostalgia". Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences (UNITED STATES) 27 (4): 448–50. doi:10.1093/jhmas/XXVII.4.448. PMID 4563356.
- Bedford, D E (November 1971). "Auenbrugger's contribution to cardiology. History of percussion of the heart". British Heart Journal (ENGLAND) 33 (6): 817–21. doi:10.1136/hrt.33.6.817. PMC 458433. PMID 4256273.
- "Who follow a gleam. Leopold Auenbrugger". Minnesota medicine (UNITED STATES) 53 (4): 386. April 1970. ISSN 0026-556X. PMID 4910362.
- Rate, R G (January 1966). "Leopold Auenbrugger and "The Inventum Novum"". The Journal of the Kansas Medical Society (UNITED STATES) 67 (1): 30–3. ISSN 0022-8699. PMID 5322113.
- LESKY, E (May. 1959). "[Leopold Auenbrugger-follower of van Swieten, on the 150th anniversary of the death of Auenbrugger on 18 May 1959.]". Dtsch. Med. Wochenschr. (Not Available) 84 (22): 1017–22. doi:10.1055/s-0028-1113715. ISSN 0012-0472. PMID 13663616.
- MENNINGER-LERCHENTHAL, E (December 1953). "[Auenbrugger as a psychiatrist.]". Wiener medizinische Wochenschrift (1946) (Not Available) 103 (51–52): 970–1. ISSN 0043-5341. PMID 13147211.
- FITZWILLIAMS, D C L (February 1951). "Auenbrugger". Medical world (Not Available) 73 (22): 522–8. PMID 14805723.
- LOGAR, I (1950). "[Thoracal auscultation.]". Priroda, clovek in zdravje (Not Available) 5 (4–5): 126–9. PMID 14776111.
- Josef Leopold Auenbrugger. WhoNamedIt.