Chloroform For Anaesthesia

Using chloroform for anaesthesia – what a wonderful discovery.

‘Thank God for James Young Simpson’s discovery of Chloroform Anaesthesia in 1847’ says a plaque in his memory in Edinburgh and so say all of us.

    • Some discoveries, like the discovery of the antiseptic properties of Carbolic Acid, have a dramatic and profound effect on the lives of millions.
    • One such discovery, was that chloroform could be used to induce a deep sleep, in which the brain could register pain.
    • A Scottish doctor, James Young Simpson, experimented with the chemical on himself and friends.
    •  He found that he could induce a feeling of  well being and good humour, unfortunately they also fell into a deep sleep from which they could not be readily woken.

By adjusting the dose, Simpson realised that he had found something that would relieve the suffering and misery felt by patients during medical procedures.

    • The year was 1847 and ether was also discovered at around about the same time. Chloroform was the drug of choice though, as it took action faster.

Using chloroform for anaesthesia

The impact of this incredible discovery should not be underestimated.

    • For soldiers on the battle field, where amputation was an unfortunately common occurrence, they no longer died of shock  and pain.
    • Thousands and thousands survived, where they would have otherwise died.
    • For women, the drug was hailed as a miracle for alleviating the pain of childbirth
    • In 1853, Queen Victoria was administered it, during the birth of Prince Leopold, her eighth child.

Plaque to James Young Simpson

It is a miracle that Simpson did not die through chloroform overdose as he played with regulating the dose. His work set him on a distinguished career path and it stands as a testament to his discovery that his family were asked if they would like him to be buried at Westminster Abbey to honour his work. They declined and he was buried in Scotland.

100,000 people lined the route of his funeral procession and a national holiday was given in Scotland


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