Michael Faraday and his contribution to anesthesia
Bergman NA.
Department of Anesthesiology,
Oregon Health Sciences University,
Portland 97201.
Anesthesiology. 1992 Oct;77(4):812-6


Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was a protege of Humphry Davy. He became one of Davy's successors as Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Of Faraday's many brilliant discoveries in chemistry and physics, probably the best remembered today is his work on electromagnetic induction. Faraday's contribution to introduction of anesthesia was his published announcement in 1818 that inhalation of the vapor of ether produced the same effects on mentation and consciousness as the breathing of nitrous oxide. He most likely became familiar with the central nervous system effects of nitrous oxide through his association with Davy, an avid user of the gas. Sulfuric ether was a common, convenient, cheap, and easily available substance, in contrast to nitrous oxide, which required expensive, cumbersome, and probably not widely available apparatus for its production and administration. The capability for inhaling intoxicating vapors eventually became commonly available with the use of ether instead of the gas. The first surgical anesthetics were a consequence of the resulting student "ether frolics." The 1818 announcement on breathing ether vapor was published anonymously; however, notations in Faraday's handwriting in some of his personal books clearly establish Michael Faraday as the author of this brief communication.
Ether frolics
Nitrous oxide
Michael Faraday
Inhaled anaesthetics
Obstetric anaesthesia
A thalamocortical switch?
History of anaesthesia apparatus
Consciousness, anaesthesia and anaesthetics
Anaesthesia: mutants in yeast, nematodes, fruit flies and mice

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The Good Drug Guide
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
The Reproductive Revolution
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World