Tag Archives: Anesthesia

Harvey Cushing: Surgeon, Author, Soldier, Historian 1869-1939

John Raffensperger Fort Meyers, Florida, United States   Harvey Williams Cushing. Photograph by W.(?)W.B. Credit: Wellcome Collection. (CC BY 4.0) Harvey Cushing was a third-generation physician, born to a family of New England Puritans who had migrated to Cleveland, Ohio, in the mid 1830s. His father and grandfather were successful physicians; family members on both […]

Amputations

Amputations were gruesome affairs before the advent of anesthesia. In the civilian population they would have been done mainly for ischemia, gangrene, and infections. In the image shown on the left, the man standing in the background wears a letter tau to indicate that he had suffered from St. Anthony’s fire, ergotism. He presumably has […]

William Morton first demonstrates the use of ether anesthesia

In 1846 the dentist William T Morton first publicly demonstrated the use of inhaled ether as a surgical anesthetic at the Massachusetts General Hospital. At the end of the procedure, the surgeon famously said: “Gentlemen, this is no humbug.” Very soon anesthesia became universally used in surgery. The first use of ether in dental surgery, […]

George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma

In the first act of Shaw’s play, several doctors come to congratulate Sir Colenso Ridgeon, recently knighted for discovering that white blood cells will not eat invading microbes unless they are rendered appetizing by being nicely buttered with opsonins. Patients supposedly manufacture these opsonins on and off, and would be cured if inoculated when their […]

James Simpson, who made childbirth painless

A large jolly man with broad shoulders, large hands, blue eyes, and a charismatic personality, James Young Simpson was said to have been the most popular man in Edinburgh since the death of Sir Walter Scott.1 Born in 1811 at Bathgate, he was the seventh son of a village baker in a poor family housed in […]

Banishing that dread of being cut

Samuel Spencer Reading, Berkshire, UK   An unconscious naked man lying on a table being attacked by little demons armed with surgical instruments, watercolous by R. Cooper. In 1863, Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was returning to camp after routing Federal armies at Chancellorsville, when he was mistaken for a Union cavalryman by his own […]

What November may bring: the first 37 days of surgical anesthesia

A.J. Wright Birmingham, Alabama, USA     William Thomas Green Morton (August 9, 1819 – July 15, 1868) In medical history October 16 is known as “Ether Day” to commemorate dentist William Morton’s 1846 demonstration of ether inhalation for a surgical patient of Dr. John Collins Warren. The event is often described as the first […]