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Horace Wells and Laughing Gas

Horace Wells and Laughing Gas

C017/6676

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Credit

SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Horace Wells (1815-1848), an American dentist, was a pioneer of the use of anaesthesia by means of 'laughing gas' (nitrous oxide). As a trial, he inhaled nitrous oxide whilst a fellow dentist extracted a tooth painlessly. Wells, in partnership with William Morton, another anaesthesia pioneer, built a 'laughing gas assembly' and set up a public demonstration in Massachusetts General Hospital which was a total failure due to insufficient nitrous oxide being administered to the patient. The assembled doctors were outraged and he was ejected. Though in later years his apparatus was successful in his New York practice, he became addicted to the gas and eventually committed suicide.

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