Podcast 757: History of Fevers and Thermometers - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast 757: History of Fevers and Thermometers

Contributor: Chris Holmes, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Dr. Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich, of the mid-1800s, was the first physician to suggest temperature was related to disease processes and his measurements set the 37˚C (98.6˚F) as the baseline temperature
  • Thermometers were adapted to be sold to the public with guidelines for temperature measurement interpretation
  • Taller and thinner individuals, anyone taking a temperature in the morning, and the elderly have decreased temperatures
  • Temperature averages have been decreased and the actual average temperature appears to be closer to 97.5˚ currently


Wright WF. Early evolution of the thermometer and application to clinical medicine. J Therm Biol. 2016;56:18-30. doi:10.1016/j.jtherbio.2015.12.003

Geneva II, Cuzzo B, Fazili T, Javaid W. Normal Body Temperature: A Systematic Review. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2019;6(4):ofz032. Published 2019 Apr 9. doi:10.1093/ofid/ofz032

Chen W. Thermometry and interpretation of body temperature [published correction appears in Biomed Eng Lett. 2019 Feb 25;9(1):19]. Biomed Eng Lett. 2019;9(1):3-17. Published 2019 Feb 9. doi:10.1007/s13534-019-00102-2

Summarized by John Spartz, MS4 | Edited by Erik Verzemnieks, MD

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