7th June 1811. Pain or Sleep.
James Young Simpson’s work in Edinburgh pioneered the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic in child-birth which was to be popularised by its use by Queen Victoria at the birth of Prince Leopold in 1853.
Simpson son of a baker was born Today in 1811 and the first to be knighted, for service to medicine.(1)
Concerned to alleviate pain he had to battle against 19thc religious prejudice, and anything which challenged the literal Biblical, God-given order of the world was bound to be controversial.
The religious argument came from Genesis: ‘To women it said I will greatly increase your pain in childbirth’.
Simpson’s response was that,’All pain is per se and especially in excess a destructive and ultimately fatal in its nature and effects’, and Adam was put into ‘deep sleep’ (anesthetized?) before his rib was removed.
Simpson Professor of Medicine and Midwifery at Edinburgh was to challenge this dogma after seeing the pain of surgery without anesthetic when Chloroform was used in obstetrics and in 1847 Diethyl Ether to relieve labour pain.(2)
Of three staples of early anesthetics-chloroform, Ether and Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas), only the latter remains in active use in advanced countries.
Laughing Gas was appropriately named and much used as a recreational stimulant in the 19thc enjoyed at parties, and the Rev Kilvert recorded going on St. Swithan’s Eve, to Hereford, to McAdam, to see the apparatus for giving the new anesthetic Nitrous Oxide.
(1) He was awarded a baronetcy and died 6.5.1870.
(2) Diethyl Ether (C4 H10) (O), is safer than Chloroform and more effective than Nitrous Oxide.(N2O).
Chloroform apart from use as an anaesthetic is used in dyes and pesticides, and once in toothpaste, cough syrup and ointments.