Ether superseded

Hunting through the SLV’s online databases for mentions of both Nitrous Oxide and Ether, it is interesting to note that while 1847 starts with ether being hailed as a wonder treatment, doubts about its side effects creep in and that by the end of 1847 chloroform replaces ether as it was felt to have fewer side effects,and was compared in its ease of administration to be more like nitrous oxide.

So we have a chronology something like this:

Pre 1847 – experiments with nitrous oxide, though only Wells tries a demonstration. Enough medical men, for example William Herapath, know about nitrous oxide and must have observed its anaesthetic properties, and perhaps experimented with it, but there are doubts about its efficacy.

In late 1846 Morton demonstrates ether, by early 1847 surgeons all over the UK are experimenting with ether. After the initial ‘wow’ doubts are expressed about the complexity of its administration and possible side effects.

Late in 1847 Simpson announces chloroform and the rest is history …

Or not quite – as this querypic query for nitrous oxide shows – it suddenly becomes popular from 1870 on, due to all these dentists advertising painless extractions using gas …

chart (1)

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About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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