Ether and chloroform narcosis in the pages
of Zagreb newspapers from 1847 to 1849

Belicza B.
Hrvatska akademija znanosti i umjetnosti,
Zavod za povijest i filozofiju znanosti,
Odsjek za povijest medicinskih znanosti, Zagreb.
Lijec Vjesn. 2000 Jan-Feb;122(1-2):32-9


Overviews of the development of anesthesiology in Croatia always emphasize that the first report on the employment of ether anesthesia was published on March 13, 1847, in the Zadar newspaper Gazzeta di Zara. In the world as well, daily newspapers played an important part in spreading the news about the discovery and first use of ether anesthesia. This fact stimulated us to do a systematic search through Zagreb press of that time. Agramer Zeitung (Zagrebacke novine), with its supplement Luna--Beiblatt zur Agramer politischen Zeitung, then Narodne novine and Sudslavische Zeitung (Slavenski jug), were examined for the period from 1846 to the beginning of 1849. Research was directed to give the following answers: when the first writings about discovery and surgery in ether and chloroform anesthesia appeared, which primary and secondary sources of information were used; who wrote them; what kind of attitudes and opinions were promoted, and whose; and finally, did Zagreb newspapers communicate or record the news about first employment of ether and chloroform anesthesia in surgery in Croatia. Research results reveal that Zagreb press had an important role in informing Croatian public about breakthroughs and first experiences in the use of ether and chloroform anesthesia in Europe, and that it contributed to their popularization and employment in our settings. From January 26, 1847, Zagreb papers began publishing first articles about surgeries in ether anesthesia, referring to successes achieved in England and Scotland, and later in Vienna, Berlin, Prague and other big European towns. However, there were no reviews on first successes in America. Sources of information were mainly foreign daily papers, mostly Austrian, and much less often European professional medical journals. Zagreb papers did not report on first surgeries performed in Zadar, Dubrovnik and Split during 1847. The only news from the country referred to the procedure performed in August 1847 in Sisak. This is the first known published information about the beginnings of ether anesthesia in northwest Croatia. The article was written by an A. C., who witnessed and described first experiments using ether anesthesia in a Vienna clinic. Compared to the number of writings on ether anesthesia, introduction of chloroform received much less attention. The first news on Simpson's success was published on December 11, 1847. Regarding total number of texts dedicated to the topic of painless surgery, culmination was reached in 1847, and afterwards the interest of press in this field decreased. In the period from 1847 to the beginning of 1849, not one article was followed by subsequent comments of Croatian readers, either lay people or medical practitioners. Texts were not written sensationally, but with the aim to objectively inform the public by communicating experience and attitudes of contemporary reputable surgeons, including all professional details which might be useful for potential users--patients, as well as for Croatian physicians, surgeons, obstetricians, dentists and veterinarians.
Nitrous oxide
Inhaled anaesthetics
Obstetric anaesthesia
Molecular mechanisms
Chloroform anaesthesia
A thalamocortical switch?
Anaesthesia and the spinal chord
History of anaesthesia apparatus
Consciousness, anaesthesia and anaesthetics
First use of anaesthetics in different countries

and further reading
Future Opioids
BLTC Research
Utopian Surgery?
The Good Drug Guide
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
The Reproductive Revolution
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World