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William Thomas Green Morton

This Month in Anesthesia History: July

July 27: Feast of Saint Pantaleon, a physician and martyr and patron saint of headache sufferers.

1492 July 25:  Giovanni Battista Cibo, born in Genoa, Italy, in 1432, died. On August 29, 1484, he became Pope Innocent VIII. An early attempt at blood transfusion involving Pope Innocent VIII was described by Stefano Infessura [ca. 1435-1500], an anti-papist lawyer in Rome. According to Infessura's Diary of the City of Rome, when the Pope was on his deathbed, a Jewish physician suggested infusing blood from three ten year-old boys into the pontiff's veins. All three donors died and Innocent himself died on July 25, 1492. The Catholic Encyclopedia warns that Infessura's work is full of gossip and not to be trusted. 

1718 July 20: Johann Bernhard Quistorp [1692-1761] appeared in the great auditorium at the University of Rostock, Germany, to submit to a public examination of his doctoral thesis, De Anaesthesia. Written in Latin, Quistorp’s dissertation was published in the same year. The word “anesthesia” had been used by the ancient Greeks and Romans and had several different meanings, one of which was “a state of insensitivity.” The only known appearance of the word in modern Western literature prior to Quistorp is in Castelli’s Lexicon Medicum Graeco Latinum published in 1713; his definition was “a privation of the senses.” Yet the word must have been used for some decades prior; Quistorp’s work consolidates the knowledge of his time about this physiological state. He defines “anaesthesia” as “a spontaneous, deep, more or less persistent loss of sensation by the whole body, except by the organs supporting the pulse and respiration” and describes numerous causes, including “Vapors (fumes) entering the body may produce anaesthesia.” Throughout the rest of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the word appears in numerous medical dictionaries and other works. In 1846 Oliver Wendall Holmes, in a famous letter, suggested the word to describe the state produced by William Morton’s ether administrations at Massachusetts General Hospital in October of that year. Quistorp’s dissertation was first translated into English in 1999 by Ray J. Defalque, M.D. For more history of the words associated with anesthesia, see Sanchez GC. Lexicographic history of “anesthesia.” J Clin Anesth 8:435-438, 1996. For an introduction to Quistorp and his dissertation, see Defalque RJ, Wright AJ. Quistorp and "anaesthesia" in 1718. Bull History Anesth 24(1): 5-8, January 2006

1730 July 12: Josiah Wedgwood was born. The English pottery designer and manufacturer was a major financial supporter of Dr. Thomas Beddoes and his Pneumatic Institute near Bristol. Beddoes and Humphry Davy manufactured and experimented with nitrous oxide there in 1799 and 1800. Wedgwood died in 1795, three years before the institute opened. His son Tom participated in those nitrous oxide experiments and also, along with Davy, conducted an early experiment in photography around 1800. A recent biography is Bryan Dolan’s Wedgwood: The First Tycoon [2004].  

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Josiah Wedgwood

1814 July 19: Samuel Colt was born. In the 1830s Colt, calling himself "Professor Coult" or "Doctor Coult", toured the United States giving nitrous oxide demonstrations to raise money to put his revolver prototype into production. Colt died on 10 January 1862. 

 

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Samuel Colt

1817 July 12: Henry David Thoreau, American naturalist and author, was born in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau moved into his famous cabin on Walden Pond on July 4, 1845. Six years later, Thoreau had what was apparently his only experience with anesthetics. In May, 1851, Thoreau received ether when his dentist removed some teeth. On May 12, Thoreau described the event in his journal. "By taking the ether the other day I was convinced how far asunder a man could be separated from his senses," Thoreau began the lengthy journal entry. "You expand like a seed in the ground. You exist in your roots, like a tree in winter. If you have an inclination to travel, take the ether: you go beyond the farthest star." In the final paragraph of his description, Thoreau seems to undercut his own enthusiasm. "It is not necessary for them to take ether, who in their sane and waking hours are ever translated by thought..." Thoreau died in 1862.

 

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Henry David Thoreau

1819 July 4: “Born in Wilmington, Delaware on July 4, 1819, Dr. Edward R. Squibb settled in Brooklyn in 1851. He founded the Squibb Pharmaceutical Co. in 1858 in a few rented rooms at 149 Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights. His company manufactured medicinal products that were safer, cleaner and more standardized than most of the medications then available. The company’s first order was for 18 pounds of chloroform. The firm’s specialty was anesthetics, including ether, chloroform, and cocaine. By 1868 the company had outgrown its Furman Street quarters and eventually had more than 17,000 employees and marketed pharmaceutical products in 136 countries. In 1956 the manufacturing operations were moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey. Edward Robinson Squibb died on October 5, 1900.” [From the Brooklyn Eagle July 4, 2008]

 

Edward Robinson Squibb
Edward R. Squibb, M.D.
[Source:
http://www.findagrave.com/index.html ]

1834 July 25: The great English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at age sixty-one. He was born October 21, 1772, in Devonshire. In 1799 Coleridge was one of several notable participants in the first human nitrous oxide experiments in Bristol conducted by Dr. Thomas Beddoes and his research assistant Humphry Davy. Many of these participants, including Coleridge, provided descriptions of their experiences for Davy's massive book on nitrous oxide that was published in 1800. 

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

1841 July 17: The first issue of the weekly British humor magazine Punch was published. In 1847 and 1848 the magazine, edited by Mark Lemon, published several items related to the newly-discovered anesthetics ether and chloroform. These items, which usually suggested unorthodox uses for the gases, included cartoons and such gems as Percival Leigh's song, "The Blessings of Chloroform." [see Weller RM. Punch, on anaesthesia. Anaesthesia 31:1267-1272, 1976] The magazine lasted until 1992, was revived in 1996 and ceased publication again in 2002.

1844 July: William T.G. Morton began using sulphuric ether as an  anesthetic in his Boston dental practice. The agent was suggested to him by Dr. Charles A. Jackson.

1865 July 19: Charles Horace Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo Clinic with his brother William J., was born. Charles Mayo is often identified as one of the youngest persons ever to administer anesthesia. He himself claimed to have assisted their surgeon father in such work, beginning around the age of eight or nine with a case for removal of a huge ovarian tumor. William claimed Charles was twelve at the time of that case and left a wonderful description: "When I was sixteen (1877 or 1878) I was my father's first assistant, and Charlie handled the sponges behind me. Dr. Mosse was giving the anesthetic--this was out at the Voltz place--as father got the incision big enough for digging out the tumor, Dr. Mosse fainted away, and Charlie stood on a box and administered ACE [an alcohol, chloroform, and ether mixture]--from that time he was the anesthetist." [from a 1932 interview in the Mayo Foundation Archives] However, recent research has determined that this case actually took place on January 3, 1883, when Charles was seventeen. [See Byer D. Anesthetic administration by a juvenile: stories from a medical family. Hist Anaesth Soc Proc 32: 51-52, 2003] The youngest anesthetist may have been the eight year-old granddaughter of the famous Edward Lawrie of chloroform and Hyderabad Commission fame. Mrs. Armstrong told W. S. Sykes that she gave chloroform for her grandfather while he was doing an emergency case. She was eight at the time. She may also have been one of the first female anesthetists. This event would took place at the beginning of the 20th century. [See: Sykes WS. Essays on the First Hundred Years of Anaesthesia. Wood Library-Museum, 1982, vol. 3, p. 200]

1868 July: American dental surgeon Thomas Wilberger Evans [1823-1897] brought to England from his home in Paris a single bottle of nitrous oxide compressed into liquid form. English dentist Charles James Fox noted about this event, "I had the pleasure of operating with it at the Dental Hospital of London, Mr. Clover administering the gas; but there the matter ended. Although I have applied to the maker in Paris of this single bottle, I have never been able to get more than an assurance that it would be ready when certain great difficulties were overcome..." That nitrous oxide could be liquefied under great pressure had been discovered by Michael Faraday in 1823. In March, 1868 Evans had also visited England to promote the use of nitrous oxide anesthesia, using a Sprague's apparatus to manufacture the gas and india rubber bags to hold it during administration. This method and equipment had been demonstrated for him in Paris by fellow American dentist Gardner Quincy Colton. Evans' visit ignited great interest in nitrous oxide anesthesia in Great Britain; by 1870, the firms of Barth and Coxeter could supply liquefied nitrous oxide on a large scale. By 1873 the method had reached America.  Evans, who trained in Philadelphia, arrived in Paris in 1847, and built one of the most fashionable dental practices in the city. Emperor Napoleon III and several royal families were among his patients. For details of these events in the history of nitrous oxide anesthesia, see Duncum BM. The Development of Inhalation Anaesthesia [Oxford University Press, 1947, pp 279-294].

1868 July 15: William T.G. Morton died in New York City. In October, 1846, Morton made the first successful public demonstrations of ether anesthesia at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. A recent [and massive!] biography is Richard J. Wolfe’s Tarnished Idol: William T.G. Morton and the Introduction of Surgical Anesthesia [Norman Publishing, 2001].

1876 July 15: J. T. Clover published an article in the British Medical Journal in which he introduces the nitrous oxide-ether sequence and an apparatus for its administration.

1893 July 6: French author Guy de Maupassant, born on August 5, 1850, died. In his brief career De Maupassant wrote several novels and hundreds of short stories. He suffered from migraines and self-medicated with ether. In one of his stories, "Afloat", written in 1888, the narrator treats his migraines in the same way. In that story the narrator declares that ether provides "a new way of seeing, judging, appreciating things and life..." De Maupassant is one of many writers and artists who have noted such experiences with anesthetic drugs.

1899 July 21: Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois. One of the author’s best known works is A Farewell to Arms [1929], the story of American World War I soldier Frederic and Catherine, the nurse who attends him after an injury. The two fall in love, and Catherine becomes pregnant. The last chapter, like much of the novel, takes place in a hospital and is filled with discussions of pain, unconsciousness and anesthesia related to Catherine’s labor. She likes the nitrous oxide she is given for the pains: “I’m a fool about the gas. It’s wonderful.” Her labor drags on, she gets more and more gas, but finally she acknowledges the gas no longer works, and she has a caesarean. For this and his numerous other works, Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. He committed suicide at his home in Ketchum, Idaho, on July 2, 1961. [See Herndi DP. Invalid masculinity: silence, hospitals, and anesthesia in A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway Review 21(1): 38-52, fall 2001

1900 July: Oskar Kreis published the first account of spinal analgesia for vaginal delivery.  [A translation of the German original was published in International Journal of Obstetric Anesthesia 9:174-178, 2000]

1936 July 18: General Francisco Franco led an uprising and the Spanish Civil War began. One of the medical advances from the war is related to blood transfusion. Canadian thoracic surgeon Henry Norman Bethune advocated mobile units to transfuse soldiers at the front instead of waiting until they were transported to medical centers behind the lines. For more on Bethune’s work in this war, see Franco A, Cortes J, Alvarez J, Diz JC. The development of blood transfusion: the contributions of Norman Bethune in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Can J Anaesth 1996; 43: 1076-1078 and Walt AJ. The world’s best-known surgeon. Surgery 1983; 94: 582-590.  Dennis Bock’s 2007 novel, The Communist’s Daughter, is based on the fascinating life of Bethune.

2002 July 19: Barry Reed, a Massachusetts lawyer and novelist, died. Reed's best known novel, The Verdict (1980) is the story of down-and-out Boston attorney Frank Galvin who attempts to redeem himself by taking the case of a young woman who is in a coma following anesthetic complications during surgery. The novel was filmed in 1982, with Paul Newman as Galvin.