Obstetrics - a gear in the machinery of history
Schaller A.
Abteilung fur Pranatale Diagnostik und Therapie,
Universitatsklinik fur Frauenheilkunde Wien,
Gynakol Geburtshilfliche Rundsch. 1998;38(1):25-39


It was not Julius Caesar who was born by Caesarean section, as generally assumed, but Scipio Cornelius Africanus, who subdued Spain 100 years before Caesar's time. In chambers with walls of porphyrite, the Byzantine empresses used to give birth to the heirs to the throne. In England, the infertility of Queen Anne, who suffered from porphyria, led to the succession of the Protestant House of Hannover following the Catholic Stuarts. Christina of Sweden, called 'queen of baroque, rebel and scholar', was born in the 'caul'. At the age of 39 years, Johanna of Pfirt, married to Albrecht the Lame, secured the continuation of the Habsburg dynasty by giving birth to Rudolf the Founder. Maria Theresia, who had 16 children, was called 'mother-in-law of Europe'. She was delivered of her first child at the age of 19. The death of her sister Maria-Anna in childbed was one of the reasons why Gerard van Swieten was called to Vienna. Elisabeth of Wurttemberg, first wife of Franz I of Austria, died, not as a consequence of. but after a forceps operation carried out by Johann Lukas Boer. In England, Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, and her baby son died at the delivery; Sir Richard Croft, who had not used the forceps, committed suicide after this tragic incident. Being the next in succession, Victoria ascended the throne. The term 'narcose au chloroforme' (first used by James Young Simpson) was changed to 'narcose a la reine' after this method had been used at the birth of Victoria's eighth child by John Snow. It was Queen Victoria, who passed on haemophilia in European dynasties. When Marie Louise of Habsburg had her first child, Napoleon's son, the later Duke of Reichstadt, Antoine Dubois had to perform a turning of the transverse presentation and use the forceps on the head following after. The birth of Napoleon himself was a case of precipitate labour. Johann Klein, the successor of Boer, applied the forceps when Archduchess Sophie was delivered of her first child, the later Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, the first of the four 'salt princes'. The later Emperor Wilhelm II of Prussia was delivered by Eduard Arnold Martin the Elder, the obstetrician of Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria; the breech presentation became even more complicated by the raised arms of the child. Both latter monarchs had been 'asphyctic' after their birth. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was also among those who were apparently dead after their birth.
Labour pain
Nitrous oxide
Horace Wells
William Morton
Seishu Hanaoka
Contemporary anaesthesia
The first use of anaesthetics in different countries
Early religious/military opposition to anaesthetics

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