James Simpson, Scottish physician

James Simpson, Scottish physician

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Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: James Simpson (1811-1870), Scottish physician. Simpson, who later called himself James Young Simpson, was the first person to use anaesthetics on women giving birth. He first used ether during a difficult labour on 19 January 1847. In November 1847 he began using chloroform to avoid carrying around heavy bottles of ether. Simpson published a controversial pamphlet, Account of a New Anaesthetic Agent (1847). Opponents claimed that painful labour was a biological and religious necessity. The clamour died down in 1853 after Queen Victoria used chloroform during childbirth. This led to his being knighted, the first person to be so honoured for services to medicine.

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