BLTC Research logo

Archbishop of Canterbury
John Bird Sumner
(1780 - 1862)

picture of the Archbishop of Canterbury

John Bird Sumner was author of Treatise on the Records of Creation and the Moral Attributes of the Creator (London, 1816). He was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1848 until his death in 1862. In Parliament, Sumner supported the Divorce Bill, but he was no madcap radical. He opposed the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, a fixture of British parliamentary life for decades; and he disagreed with the parliamentary bill for removing Jewish disabilities.

Sumner tacitly endorsed the use of anaesthetics, rebuffing the minority of priests and ministers who condemned obstetric anaesthesia on the grounds that it mocked the curse of "primal sin". Sumner's own daughter had obstetric anaesthesia a year after Queen Victoria for the birth of Prince Leopold. Sumner didn't stand alone among senior churchmen who endorsed the use of anaesthetics. Prominent religious supporters of anaesthesia included Thomas Chalmers, Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, and Abraham De Sola, Canada's first Rabbi.


Utopian Surgery
John Bird Sumner
Refs and Further Reading
Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics
Queen Victoria and John Snow
Obstetric Chloroform Apparatus