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Saturday, 5 April 2014


Chloroform is a colorless toxic chemical substance, which with an acrid, sickly sweet smell and taste, sends people off to sleep as they inhale. In the 19th century it was a widely used anesthetic.

Chloroform is one of the intermediate substances that occur in the production of Polytetrafluoroethylene, better known as Teflon.

The first person reported to have produced Chloroform was the French chemist Eugène Soubeiran, in 1831.

Chloroform was named and chemically characterised in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Dumas.

Chloroform was used for the first time as a general anesthetic by the Scottish obstetrician Dr James Simpson (1811-1870), one of Queen Victoria's private physicians. Simpson discovered the properties of chloroform during an experiment with friends on November 4, 1847, in which he learnt that it could be used to put one to sleep. They soon had Miss Petrie, Simpson's niece, try it. She fell asleep soon after inhaling it while singing the words, "I am an angel!"

The first baby to be delivered by chloroform was Wilhelmina Carstairs. Her mother, Jane Carstairs, gave birth after being anaesthetised by the pungent anaesthetic.

There  was strong opposition to chloroform from Calvinist churchmen as they reasoned that in the third chapter of Genesis in the Bible, Eve was told “in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.”

Antique bottles of chloroform. By Kevin King - Flickr: Chickamauga 2009, 

It became an established means of anesthesia after Queen Victoria allowed herself to be chloroformed by Dr John Snow to diminish the pains during the birth of her eighth child, Prince Leopold on April 7. 1853. The religious objections quietened mainly as none of the churchmen had the nerve to criticize the Queen.

Chloroform does cause some unwanted side effects. After waking chloroformed patients often suffer from dizziness, brutal headaches, and bouts of vomiting.

Using a chloroform soaked rag as an incapacitating agent is pure fiction. It is nearly impossible to incapacitate someone using chloroform in this manner. 

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