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Books, Journals, New Media
March 10, 1999

History of Anesthesia: The Genesis of Surgical Anesthesia

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

by Norman A. Bergman, 448 pp, with illus, $85, ISBN 0-9614932-0-0, Park Ridge, Ill, Wood Library–Museum of Anesthesiology, 1998.

JAMA. 1999;281(10):953. doi:10.1001/jama.281.10.953

Books on the history of anesthesia often provide concise descriptions of the immediate events leading up to the epochal first public demonstration of ether anesthesia by William Morton at the Massachusetts General Hospital on October 16, 1846. Most publications then carefully examine subsequent events, such as the early days of J. Y. Simpson's chloroform use and John Snow's care in administering agents and in primitive monitoring.

This volume is different. It describes in thorough, fascinating detail the long road leading up to the routine use of anesthesia for relief of pain during surgical procedures. The story goes back to the very beginnings of recorded history. The book is not just a chronicle of the earliest attempts to provide "anesthesia" but is indeed a comprehensive history of the scientific aspects of all of medicine. The author carried out his extensive research on the subject from 1982 through 1993, in the United States and on sabbatical in Great Britain.