1525: Paracelsus tests ether by using it on animals.
1743: Charles-Marie de la Condamine discovers curare in South America and describes it as ‘flying death’.
1805: Friedrich Serturner discovers the active ingredient in laudanum. He names it morphine after Morpheus the Greek god of dreams.
1831: First preparation of chloroform. However, its use as an anaesthetic was not discovered for several years.
1844: Horace Wells watches Gardner Quincy Colton’s demonstration of nitrous oxide as pain relief. He persuades Colton to administer it the next day as Wells has a tooth removed.
1845: Wells sets up the first public demonstration of nitrous oxide. The patient is not thoroughly anaesthetised, the demonstration is a disaster and Wells is ridiculed.
1846: On the 16th October, William Morton gives the first public demonstration of ether. The surgeon is said to have declared “Gentlemen, this is no humbug”.
1846: December 19th, James Robinson, a London dentist, gives ether for the first time in the UK. On 21st December, the first surgical anaesthetic is given by medical student William Squire. The operation, a leg amputation, was performed by Robert Liston in under three minutes.
1847: Less than one month after Liston’s demonstration, ether is first used for pain relief during labour by Scottish obstetrician James Young Simpson.
1848: The first death directly attributed to anaesthesia. Hannah Greener, a teenage girl from Newcastle, was given chloroform whilst having an operation on her toe.
1853: John Snow gives ether to Queen Victoria during the birth of her 8th child. This helps anaesthesia to become socially acceptable.
1874: Cocaine first used as a local anaesthetic.
1897: First spinal anaesthetic. It was administered by Augustus Bier.
1917: Henry Boyle’s first anaesthetic machine.
1919: Ivan Magill develops endotracheal tubing. This allows the administration of anaesthesia without a facepiece and is essential for operations on the face and neck.
1923: The first brain tumour operation to be performed under local anaesthetic.1932: Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland is founded by Henry Featherstone.
1942: Curare used as an anaesthetic by Harold Griffiths, two hundred years after its discovery.
1980: Laryngeal mask airway developed by Archie Brain.
2000: The first National Anaesthesia Day is celebrated in the UK on the 25th May.