The Discovery and Controversy over the First Use of Surgical Anesthesi

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The Discovery and Controversy over the First Use of Surgical Anesthesi

Dennis Brindell Fradin wrote in ”We Have Conquered Pain”: The Discovery of
Anesthesia, “We take it for granted that we can sleep through operations without feeling any pain. But until about 150 years ago, the operating room was a virtual torture chamber because surgeons had no way to prevent the pain caused by their healing knives.”
Fradin is right. Since several analyses of archaic human bones have proven that people have suffered from disease and pain since the beginning of their existence, one can only assume the tremendous pain humans had to endure before the discovery of anesthesia. The four brilliant men who ended mankind’s suffering also had to endure
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After these advances in the early nineteenth century, the most popular experiment at scientific exhibits was for the students to become intoxicated by inhaling ether or nitrous oxide, commonly called laughing gas, in the United States. Such experiments became so popular that students entertained themselves outside of class by holding ether parties. These parties, frequently called “ether frolics,” were common all over the country. It was the ether frolics that eventually led to the realization that ether can cause unconsciousness and, with that, relief of pain.8

In the small village of Jefferson, Georgia, an ether frolic was scheduled in early 1841. This event attracted the attention of Crawford Williamson Long, a young doctor living in a nearby town, who later held ether frolics in his own home as a form of entertainment. Long afterward noted that although guests at his ether parties were terribly bruised from hitting objects while unconscious, they were frequently not felt or seen until several days later. Long decided that being intoxicated with ether might produce the same degree of insensibility during a surgical operation.9

Meanwhile, James Venable, one of Long’s friends who had participated in the ether frolics, wanted Long to remove two tumors on the side of his neck. Venable was fearful of surgery, and on March 30, 1842, Long told Venable his idea to use ether during surgery as a way to dull the

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