The History of Anaesthesia


Modern surgical anaesthesia began in 1846 with the first successful public administration of ether. The maturation of this branch of medicine developed during the next century and a half as principles of physiology and pharmacology increasingly became part of clinical practice and as practitioners formed societies to promote research and develop standards for education and practice.

Keywords: anaesthesia; history; chloroform; ether; nitrous oxide

Further Reading

Caton D (1985) The secularization of pain. Anesthesiology 62: 493–501.

Caton D (1999) What a Blessing She Had Chloroform: the Medical and Social Response to the Pain of Childbirth from 1800 to the Present. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Caton D and Antognini JF (2003) The development of concepts of mechanisms of anesthesia. In: Antognini JF, Carstens EE and Raines DE (eds), Neural Mechanisms of Anesthesia, pp. 3–12. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press.

Duncum BM (1994) The Development of Inhalation Anaesthesia. London: Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd.

Ellis RH (1976) The introduction of ether anaestheia to Great Britain. Anaesthesia 31: 766–777.

Fink BR (1985) Leaves and needles: the introduction of surgical local anaesthesia. Anesthesiology 63: 77–83.

Keyes TE (1963) The History of Surgical Anesthesia. New York: Dover Press.

Smith WDA (1982) Under the Influence: A History of Nitrous Oxide and Oxygen Anaesthesia. Park Ridge, IL: Wood Library‐Museum of Anesthesiology.

Wolfe RJ (2001) Tranished Idol: William T.G. Morton and the Introduction of Surgical Anesthesia. San Anselmo, CA: Normal Publishing.

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How to Cite close
Caton, Donald(Sep 2005) The History of Anaesthesia. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003621]