Episode 49: The Ether Dome


The world before anesthesia was brutal — surgeons inflicted torture on largely conscious patients, hoping to finish an operation as quickly as possible. But all of that changed with the introduction of inhaled ether. This episode covers the context behind the discovery of etherization, with myths about screaming medicinal plants, a “missing recipe” of medieval general anesthesia, 19th century recreational drug use, and a controversy carved in granite.

Sources:

  1. Brown, M. The Palgrave Handbook of the History of Surgery. 327–348 (2017). doi:10.1057/978-1-349-95260-1_16
  2. Dorrington, K. & Poole, W. The first intravenous anaesthetic: how well was it managed and its potential realized? Bja Br J Anaesth 110, 7–12 (2013).
  3. Robinson, D. H. & Toledo, A. H. Historical Development of Modern Anesthesia. J Invest Surg 25, 141–149 (2012).
  4. Chidiac, E. J., Kaddoum, R. N. & Fuleihan, S. F. Mandragora. Anesthesia Analgesia 115, 1437–1441 (2012).
  5. Vargas, I. Ether Frolic: The Day Pain Stopped. Bulletin Anesthesia Hist 28, 53–56 (2010).
  6. Whalen, F. X., Bacon, D. R. & Smith, H. M. Inhaled anesthetics: an historical overview. Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol 19, 323–330 (2005).
  7. Prioreschi, P. Medieval anesthesia – the spongia somnifera. Med Hypotheses 61, 213–219 (2003).
  8. Stallings, S. & Montagne, M. A chronicle of anesthesia discovery in New England. Pharm Hist 35, 77–80 (1993).
  9. Litoff, J. & Pernick, M. S. A Calculus of Suffering: Pain, Professionalism, and Anesthesia in Nineteenth-Century America. Am Hist Rev 91, 176 (1986).
  10. Leake, C. D. Letheon: The Cadenced Story of Anesthesia. Science 199, 857–860 (1978).
  11. CRAWFORD W. LONG (1815-1878) DISCOVERER OF ETHER FOR ANESTHESIA. Jama 194, 1008–1009 (1965).
  12. Riches, E. Samuel Pepys and His Stones. J Urology 118, 148–151 (1977).
  13. CWRIGHT, F. The early history of ether. Anaesthesia 15, 67–69 (1960).
  14. Insensibility during Surgical Operations Produced by Inhalation. New Engl J Medicine 35, 379–382 (1846).
  15. SURGICAL HUMBUG. Lancet 5, 646–647 (1826).

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