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Monday, 8 August 2011


God performed the first ever surgical operation a long time ago when he removed one of Adam's ribs to create Eve. The Book of Genesis states that the surgery was done under an anaesthetic, as God caused “a deep sleep to fall upon the man."

The Chinese physician Hua T'o was the first doctor known to perform surgery under general anaesthetic in about 200 AD. The potion, which rendered his patients unconscious was a mixture of hemp and strong wine called ma fei san.

The explorer Sir Walter Raleigh was exploring the River Orinoco in South America in 1595. Raleigh was interested in medicine and often made up his own remedies. Whilst exploring the river he reported on the arrow poison the local Indians use which paralyzes the victim. It is a syrup from a creeper, and can be used as an anaesthetic.

News of William Morton's discovery of the anaesthetic properties of ether reached Europe in late 1846, despite his efforts to keep his compound a secret. So a few months after Morton’s demonstration in Europe, the London surgeon Robert Liston performed the first operation under ether anaesthetic amputating the diseased thigh of a patient under ether in under two and a half minutes. He referred to the anaesthetic method as a “Yankee dodge”.

It was Oliver Wendell Holmes, the philosopher and literary figure and the professor of  Anatomy at Harvard who coined the expression “anaesthesia”, (from the Greek for "no feeling") for the state induced by the new gases in 1847.

In 1853 Queen Victoria allowed herself to be chloroformed to diminish the pains of childbirth whilst giving birth to her seventh child. When anaesthesia was first used for this purpose a few years previously, churchmen, who of course were all males, objected quoting God’s words to Eve in the Book of Genesis, “in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children”. However none of these principled churchmen had the courage to reprimand the Queen, which put a stop to their criticism.

In 1885 William Halsted introduced the first local anaesthetic, which is administered by injecting cocaine it into the patient’s nerve. Unfortunately due to the nature of his self-experimentation with the drug, he fell into a cocaine addiction, which it took him two years to overcome.

Novocaine is a local anesthetic drug also known as procaine. It was created by the German scientist Alfred Einhorn (1857-1917) in 1905 and was the first man-made pain-killer that could be taken as a shot. It is used today primarily to reduce the pain of intramuscular injection of penicillin, and also by some dentists.

 In 2002 it was reported that people with red hair require 20 per cent more anesthetic before surgery than people with hair of another color.

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