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Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on the History of Anaesthesia

Smith, Theodore C. Past President

doi: 10.1097/00000539-200104000-00064
Book And Multimedia Reviews: Media Review

Anesthesia History Association

Riverside, IL

Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on the History of AnaesthesiaJochen Schulte am Esch and Michael Goerig, editors.Lübeck: Verlag Dräger Druck, 1999. ISBN: 3-925402-00-4. 878 pp. $90.00.

Although the history of anesthesia is very short compared with other disciplines (first matter 15 billion years ago, first man one million years ago, even first printing five centuries ago), this volume is evidence that anesthesia history is rich and growing. The very first International Symposium on the History of Anesthesia, in 1982, was recorded in a slim volume Anaesthesia: Essays on its History, edited by Rupreht, van Lievar, Lee, and Erdmann in 1985. This Rotterdam meeting was so successful that it was followed by a second in London, a third in Atlanta, and recently a fourth in Berlin. Each has published its proceedings, and each has been a delight. An international committee has formed to plan future meetings at 4-yr intervals.

This Proceedings is not light reading in the sense that if you fall asleep with it on your chest, its three-plus pounds will certainly increase the work of breathing. But it is enlightening. Its 130 pieces include nearly forgotten names and practices from what may be called the Preanesthesia Period, before 1846, events marking the spread of our specialty globally, and the development of current ideas. They are almost without exception clearly written in English despite the diversity of national origin of the authors, succinct (one to five pages, just right for a bedtime story), and in many cases they are stimulating accounts of inventive minds pushing available technology to the limit. An important aspect is the appearance as authors of those whose names will doubtless be accorded respect in our histories yet to be written. For example, note the appearance of P. Astrup, J. Maltby, C. Parsloe, P. Safer, J. Severinghaus and others who have built and are building our discipline. The organization of the volume follows the program of the Symposium, but informative section titles such as “Forgotten Pioneers …”, “Early Reports of Deaths …”, “Anaesthesia Spreads …”, and “Resuscitation Through the Centuries” lead one to entries of associated enjoyable essays. An index of historic names makes a valuable scholarly resource.

Perhaps the most important reason for noting this volume is to call attention to the next in the series. The Fifth International Symposium on the History of Anesthesia will convene in the historic medieval Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela from September 19-23, 2001. The editors who will record their Proceedings have had a high standard set. For details see their home page at I’m going to Spain!

© 2001 International Anesthesia Research Society