First general anaesthetic

First general anaesthetic

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Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: First use of surgical anaesthesia. Painting of the 1st public demonstration of surgical anaesthesia, at the Massachusetts General Hospital, October 16 1846. Various anaesthetics, from alcohol to opium, were used through history, but it was not until 1846 that a successful operation was demonstrated to the public and an account published. The anaesthetist, seen here administering ether gas through the patient's mouth, was the dentist William T.G. Morton. The operation was carried out to remove a tumour in the patient's neck. A bitter, unresolved dispute ensued between Morton and his colleagues as to who was the actual discoverer. Morton later died in poverty after suffering mental breakdown.

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