Today is World Anaesthesia Day, and commemorates the first public demonstration of ether on the 16th of October 1846.
The demonstration took place at the Massachusetts General Hospital, now preserved as the Ether Dome, on a patient having a tumour removed from his neck. The surgeon was Dr John Collins Warren, and the ether was given by William T G Morton using an inhaler of his own design.
Morton had studied at the Baltimore College of Dental School and Harvard Medical School, though left before graduating on both occasions. At Harvard, Morton had attended lectures given by Dr Charles T Jackson, in which he demonstrated that ether could cause a loss of consciousness. It seems that Jackson and his students missed any connection between ether and the potential for painless surgery, until on the 30th of September 1846 when Morton experimented with ether for a tooth extraction. The procedure was successful and Morton’s account was published in the newspapers. Just over a fortnight later, he was invited to give ether in a public demonstration. After the operation was successfully complete and the patient conscious, Warren reputedly turned to his audience to say ‘Gentlemen, this is no humbug!’
Among this audience was another surgeon, Dr Jacob Bigelow. He wrote of the events to a friend in London, and within a few days of his letter reaching England, ether was being used on surgical and dental patients in London.
After the scale of casualties in the First World War became clear, many hospitals were taken over by the military, with anything from a single ward to the entire building used to treat injured soldiers. Many of these hospitals returned to civilian use after the war, and are still operational today.
This interactive map shows the hospitals in London that treated injured soldiers in the First World War, and which are still in use a century later. Scroll through to read about the history of these sites and how they were used in the War.
If you have any stories about the history of your hospital, or would like to add any information to the map, please contact us.
The latest addition to the Heritage Centre is this wonderful book of lecture notes by Joseph Clover.
Though he also developed a chloroform apparatus, Clover is most famous for creating an ether inhaler in 1877. Described at the time as a ‘most ingenious and useful apparatus’ it included a face-piece and rebreathing bag, and so regulated the amount of ether the patient breathed in. It continued to be in use well into the twentieth century and the Anaesthesia Museum has several examples on display. The new book contains the notes Clover made whilst a medical student at UCL in the lectures of Dr C J B Williams, during the winter term of 1845-1846. The notes are beautifully written and span a range of subjects, with a few small sketches or tables to illustrate points.
The latest collection donated to the Heritage Centre was received earlier this month from the family of Dr Edith Gilchrist, a well-known anaesthetist and highly-respected archivist and researcher.
Born in September 1913, Dr Gilchrist died shortly before her 100th birthday in July 2013. She qualified in 1938 at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, and within five years was resident anaesthetist at Addenbrookes Hospital, before returning to the Royal Free as staff anaesthetist in 1945. Dr Gilchrist gained the DA (Diploma in Anaesthetics) in 1942 and was awarded the FFARCS (Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons) in 1953.
Whilst at the Royal Free, Dr Gilchrist worked with Stanley Rowbotham, the pioneering anaesthetists who helped to develop plastic surgery after the First World War, and pioneered local and intravenous anaesthesia. They became life-long friends and Dr Gilchrist arranged for his memorial plaque which now hangs in the Royal College of Anaesthetists.
Keenly interested in the history of medicine, she was a member of The Hunterian Society, The Osler Club and was the first female president of The Harveian Society. She was also the honorary archivist for the Royal Free and co-founded their archive centre which is now part of the London Metropolitan Archives.
The collection contains equipment used by Dr Gilchrist throughout her career, as well as pharmaceutical packaging and sample sets, and books with notes from both Dr Gilchrist and Stanley Rowbotham. Scroll down to see some of the objects in the collection.
The Anaesthesia Heritage Museum has been very popular lately and has received several donations of books and objects over the last few weeks.
As we will start a series of exhibitions looking at anaesthesia in wartime in a few months time, we are very grateful to the family of Dr O P Dinnick for their recent donation.
Dr Dinnick served as an anaesthetist in the Second World War in the RAF and was posted in North Africa and Italy, supporting the 8th Army. The donated objects are a small medical kit, made by the Army Medical Service. Designed to be worn on a belt, it contains forceps, tweezers, a tiny thermometer and glass ampoules of catgut and surgical thread. There is also a china Red Cross feeding cup, which was used with patients who were unable to leave their beds.
Last week, the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre received a bound volume of Punch magazines from 1847, the year after the first use of ether. It contains several references to the new drug and several suggestions for use, as well as this song about chloroform…
The Heritage Centre may be closed for a few more days, but you can now see our new exhibition at BMA House in Tavistock Square!
The display looks at Charles King, the founder of the Anaesthesia Museum, and includes some of his original equipment, inventions and photos. Though not a doctor, Charles King had a huge impact on anaesthesia in the 20th century and worked with many well-known figures to develop life-saving equipment.