Want to Know the History of COPD?

The disease was initially recognized with the use of the stethoscope and spirometer and spirometry still remains the most effective means of identification and assessment of the course of COPD and responses to therapy.

COPD is the fourth most common cause of death in the USA. Approximately 16 million adult Americans have COPD. By 2020 COPD is expected to become the third most common cause of death. Early identification and prevention, and treatment of emerging stages of disease through smoking cessation and a growing number of bronchoactive drugs promises to change the outcome.

Over years of study it has emerged that COPD refers to airways obstruction over the long term and COPD includes:-

  • chronic bronchitis
  • emphysema
  • chronic asthmatic bronchitis

Earliest references to COPD

It was in 1679 that Bonet described COPD as “voluminous lungs”. It was corroborated around a century later in 1769 by Morgagni. They described cases in which the lungs were “turgid”, particularly from air.

Baillie in 1789 published a series of illustrations of the emphysematous lung putting forth the pathology of the disease. Thus emphysema was known to be a part of COPD early one.

It was much later that chronic bronchitis got included in COPD. Badham in 1814 used the word catarrh to refer to the chronic cough and increased mucus secretion as symptoms of bronchiolitis and chronic bronchitis that could be part of COPD.

It was in 1846 that John Hutchinson invented the spirometer. This was the key to diagnosing COPD. The spirometer is still used today for diagnosis and regular assessment regarding response to therapy in COPD. 


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2706597/
  2. www.nhs.uk/.../Introduction.aspx
  3. http://www.bcguidelines.ca/pdf/copd.pdf
  4. http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/13029/49401/49401.pdf
  5. www.lung.org/assets/documents/publications/solddc-chapters/copd.pdf
  6. http://www.who.int/respiratory/copd/GOLD_WR_06.pdf