Tag Archives: ether

Lawson Tait, father of aseptic surgery and gynecology

Robert Lawson Tait. via Wikimedia. Robert Lawson Tait was fifth in a dynasty of pioneers who helped transform surgery from a primitive craft to a sophisticated life-saving art. They all worked for a time at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary—James Syme (the “Napoleon of Surgery”), Robert Liston (“time me, gentlemen”), James Simpson (“made childbirth painless”), and […]

Crawford W. Long, first use of ether anesthesia

Crawford Williamson Long (1815–1878) is best known for his first use of ether as an anesthetic. He graduated from medical school in Pennsylvania and walked the hospitals in New York. He then returned home to set up practice in Jefferson, Georgia, a village some 140 miles from a railroad, where professional visits were made on […]

Ether dome

The first operation using ether as anesthesia took place in 1846. This daguerreotype is not of that operation, but rather is a recreation of the event. The patient is unknown, but the surgeons include John Mason Warren, John Collins Warren, George Hayward, and Solomon D. Townsend. Following the first use of ether, the operating theater […]

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 […]

Robert Liston – the fastest knife in town

Samuel Johnson, a man of strongly held prejudices, had a low opinion of most foreigners, and this included the Scots. James Boswell, his biographer and a Scotsman himself, records how Johnson patronizingly would declare that the best roads lead from Scotland and that much could be made of a Scotsman “if he be caught young.” […]

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 […]

Anesthesia: culture, technology, and the rise of the surgeon

Suzanne Raga New Jersey, USA   A depiction of eye surgery c. 1195 The introduction of new technologies such as surgical anesthesia has led to better methods of diagnosis and treatment, but it also shows that the relationship between medical theory and practice is not always a smooth one. Surprisingly, anesthesia was first used for […]