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Surgery, as most things pertaining to medicine, has a certain knack for inspiring fear in the heart of people. Could it be the harshly-lit hospital hallways, the doctor’s dreary medical equipment, or the hovering nurses’ heads you get to see floating above your bed just minutes before going into surgery? Could it be all of these that inspire such terror? I presume everybody is nodding their heads in agreement right now, and mind you, I haven’t even pointed out the biggest worry of all – the fact that an illness is unmistakably there, wreaking havoc in your body.

 

“The experiment can be deemed successful since Davy concluded that he “lost connection with external things” as “the pleasurable sensations increased”. It would take a while for his theory to be accepted, but if that doesn’t count as sacrifice in the name of medical breakthroughs, I don’t know what does.”

 

But each and every one of these worries tenderly slips away when the anesthetic finally starts kicking in. For this legally narcotic sensation we have to thank Sir Humphry Davy. He was a self-taught chemist, philosopher, poet, speaker of seven languages, known for his pioneering work in the field of electrochemistry and his discovery of several chemical elements, such as potassium and sodium among numerous other accomplishments. He is best known for his Researches, Chemical and Philosophical Chiefly Concerning Nitrous Oxide, or Diphlogisticated Nitrous Air, and its Respiration, published in 1799.

 

But what most books will likely leave out is the fact that Davy discovered the potential use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) in surgical operations, for it “appears capable of destroying physical pain” because of his preference of daily indulgence in the art of “pleasurable sensations” – meaning he was addicted to it. Likewise, the formulation of his hypothesis, aided by previously consuming a bottle of wine, sounded something like this: “It occurred to me, that supposing nitrous oxide to be a stimulant of the common class, it would follow that the debility produced in consequence of excessive stimulation by a known agent, ought to be increased after excitement from nitrous oxide.” He further tested his theory by increasing the dosage of inhaled gas while enclosed in an air-tight breathing-box for almost an hour. The experiment can be deemed successful since Davy concluded that he “lost connection with external things” as “the pleasurable sensations increased”. It would take a while for his theory to be accepted, but if that doesn’t count as sacrifice in the name of medical breakthroughs, I don’t know what does.  

 

Written by O.P. Sources: publicdomainreview.org, lateralscience.co.uk, chemheritage.org, onlinelibrarywiley.com

1 comments on Laughing all the way to surgery. Humphry Davy’s discovery of surgical anesthetics
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    Christina Umbridge August 17th, 2016 at 7:33 pm
    Most of us are still very terrified of only the idea of going under the knife. At least surgery doesn’t require several people pining you down and you screaming your lungs out anymore. Thank you for that, Sir Humphry Davy!
    Reply