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doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e3182814fd7
Anesthesiology Reflections from the Wood Library-Museum

After Dosing and Dozing: A Photoportrait of James Matthews Duncan

Bause, George S. M.D., M.P.H.

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After self-experimenting with chloroform on November 4, 1847, three Scotsmen collapsed: Professor James Young Simpson and his colleagues George S. Keith and James Matthews Duncan (1826–1890, portrayed above against a Duncan clan tartan). According to a surgical colleague, Simpson awoke from this first self-chloroforming to discover “Duncan beneath a chair; his jaw dropped, his eyes staring, his head bent half under him; quite unconscious, and snoring in a most determined and alarming manner.” A loyal assistant to Simpson, “Matthews” Duncan supported his wife and their 13 children with his successful obstetric practice. After being passed over to fill Simpson’s vacant chair at the University of Edinburgh, Duncan revolutionized obstetrical education at London’s St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. When Duncan died, Queen Victoria telegrammed the Widow Duncan that the “country and Europe have lost one of their most distinguished men, and one who will be sorely missed.” (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.)

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