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Michael Faraday and His Contribution to Anesthesia.

Bergman, Norman A. M.D.

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Abstract

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.
(C) 1992 American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.
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