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Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr
(1809 - 1894)

picture of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

“Everybody wants to have a hand in a great discovery. All I will do is to give you a hint or two as to names—or the name—to be applied to the state produced and the agent. The state should, I think, be called ‘Anaesthesia’ (from the Greek word anaisthesia, ‘lack of sensation’). This signifies insensibility.... The adjective will be ‘Anaesthetic’. Thus we might say the state of Anaesthesia, or the Anaesthetic state.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
21 November 1846

Anaesthesia was christened in a letter by the Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Dartmouth College, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr, written to etherization pioneer William Morton.

Holmes, Sr, was father of the future Supreme Court Justice. His paper, "The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever", was first delivered in 1843 to the obscure "Society for Medical Improvement". The paper was published in a little-known journal, The New England Quarterly Journal of Medicine, which folded after a year. But Holmes' contribution probably saved many lives. Some medical historians even rank his achievement on a par with Ignaz Semmelweiz.


Utopian Surgery
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Anaesthesia christened
Refs and Further Reading
Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr (Wikipedia)