The history of the development of anaesthesia can be traced back for many centuries and is closely linked with the development of surgery. Most current descriptions of this history tend to focus on the affluent Western World from the mid‐nineteenth century onwards. Although rich in stories about many aspects of anaesthesia development, this provides a very narrow viewpoint and ignores the contributions made by early civilisations that are difficult to quantify due to inadequate translations of original documents and persistent repetition of inaccurate myths. The history of anaesthesia varies from country to country and should always be considered in relation to who has written the document. It is a process that is still continuing and there is much still to be learnt and recorded from the past and present.
- Anaesthesia history varies according to the culture from which it is written.
- Anaesthesia history varies from country to country as historians tend to emphasise their own cultural contributions to the exclusion of others.
- Much in anaesthesia history can be traced back for centuries as an understanding of human physiology slowly evolved.
- It is likely that there are many written documents, particularly in Arabic and Indian languages, that could augment current understanding of anaesthesia history significantly.
- Many anaesthesia historians continue to repeat previously published stories without any attempt to verify their accuracy.
- The development of modern anaesthesia has allowed the anaesthetist increasing control over a patient's physiology that has in turn permitted surgery to expand and develop.
- The history of anaesthesia in the less affluent world may well be limited to a few decades and bear no relationship to that seen in the affluent world.
Keywords: anaesthesia; history; ether; chloroform; equipment; monitoring