1637 September 8: Robert Fludd, an English physician, philosopher and inventor, died. Fludd was one of the earliest physicians to time the pulse.

1677 September 7 [or 17]:  Englishman Stephen Hales was born in Bekesbourne, Kent. While a divinity student at Cambridge, he studied botany and chemistry. Hales, who became Vicar of Teddington in 1709, was the first to measure blood flow, blood volume and blood pressure. He reported the results in Statical Essays. Hales also researched the role of air and water in plant and animal life, and developed a ventilator that saved lives aboard ships, and in hospitals and prisons. He demonstrated that the spinal cord mediates some reflexes and invented the surgical forceps. In 1717 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded its Copley Medal in 1739. You can learn more about this fascinating man in I.B. Smith’s article, The impact of Stephen Hales on medicine published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1993 [86: 349-352].  Hales died in Teddington on January 4, 1761.

1791 September 22: English chemist and physicist Michael Faraday was born at Newington, Surrey, near London. In 1818 Faraday, then a student of Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution in London, published a brief anonymous article in the Quarterly Journal of Science and the Arts in which he noted the lethargic state that could be produced by the inhalation of ether vapor. Faraday is best known for his pioneering experiments in electricity and magnetism. He died on August 25, 1867. Recent biographies are Michael Faraday by Geoffrey Cantor et al (1996) and A Life of Discovery : Michael Faraday, Giant of the Scientific Revolution by James Hamilton (2004).

1792 September 27: English caricaturist George Cruikshank was born. In his long career Cruikshank provided illustrations for hundreds of popular books, including John Scoffern’s Chemistry No Mystery [1839]. The frontispiece for this title (and the only illustration in the book) depicts the effects of nitrous oxide inhalation at a classroom demonstration. Scoffern’s otherwise serious chemistry text contains an entire chapter devoted to such a demonstration. Cruikshank also did several famous caricatures related to pain. Cruikshank, who produced more than 15,000 drawings during his long career, died in 1878.

1811 September 30: On this date English novelist and diarist Fanny Burney underwent a mastectomy for suspected breast cancer; she refused any drugs or alcohol except a wine cordial. One of Burney’s best known works is Evelina, or The History of A Young Lady’s Entrance into the World, her first novel published anonymously in 1778. When her authorship of the popular novel became known, Burney’s fame was assured. In 1802 Burney and her family moved to France, where they remained for ten years.  Between March and May 1812, Burney wrote a detailed letter describing her experience of surgery without anesthesia. The letter, along with the doctors’ report written on October 1, 1811, can be found in Hemlow J, et al, eds.,  The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (Madame d’Arblay) (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1975, Vol. VI, pp. 596-616). Burney, who was born June 13, 1752, died on January 6, 1840.

1818 September 26: English obstetrician and physiologist James Blundell was the first to transfuse human blood into another human. Earlier efforts at transfusion had used animal blood. Although the patient in this initial attempt died, Blundell continued his efforts in a total of ten patients, five of whom survived. Blundell published a physiology and pathology text in 1824 and books on obstetrics [1834] and diseases in women [1837]. An article about his transfusion work is Myhre BA. James Blundell–pioneer transfusionist. Transfusion 35:74-78, 1995; an article about his entire professional career is Young JH. James Blundell (1790-1878): Experimental physiologist and obstetrician. Medical History 8:159-169, 1964.

1832 September 1: Ephraim Cutter, American physician and inventor of the laryngoscope, was born. Cutter died in New York on April 25, 1917. In its brief obituary, the British Medical Journal noted that he was one of the early American laryngologists, and invented many instruments. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale in 1852 and medical degree from Harvard in 1856. On a visit to Europe in 1862, Cutter met the German physiologist Johann N. Czermak and viewed the photograph Czermak had made of his own larynx. In November 1865 Cutter spent a week testing apparatus and methods with photographer F. Willard Hardy as he photographed Cutters larynx. In addition to this work and his many instrument designs, Cutter was a prolific author of medical papers on many topics and a pioneer of microphotography. An 1867 paper in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal [now the New England Journal of Medicine] was entitled On the modes of administration of systemic anaesthetics.

1846 September 7: Gilbert Abbott consulted Boston surgeon John Collins Warren about a tumor on his neck. Surgery was scheduled for October 13 at Massachusetts General Hospital.

1846 September 30: Boston dentist William Thomas Green Morton anesthetized his patient Eben H. Frost and successfully removed an ulcerated tooth. Frost had requested that Morton mesmerize (hypnotize) him, but the dentist–who had been searching for a pain-relieving agent–tried sulfuric ether instead. Morton’s mentor, Harvard professor Charles Thomas Jackson, had suggested sulfuric ether. This event served as prelude to Morton’s successful ether anesthesia for surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital on October 16 and 17. See Haridas RP. Ebenezer Hopkins Frost. Anesthesiology. 2012 Aug;117(2):442-5 and Levasseur R, Desai SP. Ebenezer Hopkins Frost (1824-1866): William T.G. Morton’s First Identified Patient and Why He Was Invited to the Ether Demonstration of October 16, 1846. Anesthesiology. 2012 Aug;117(2):238-42.

1849 September 1: Outbreak of the Broad Street pump cholera epidemic in London began. This epidemic would be investigated by the great anesthetist John Snow. A recent biography of Snow is Vinten-Johansen P, et al, Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine: A Life of John Snow [Oxford University Press, 2003].

1852 September 23: American surgeon William Stewart Halsted was born in New York City. See note for September 7, 1922, below.

1854 September 20: The Crimean War began with a Franco-British victory over Russian forces in the Battle of Alma. This war was the first major conflict in which anesthesia was used extensively on the battlefield. [For an overview of early military uses of anesthesia, see Houghton IT. Some observations on early military anaesthesia. Anaesth Intens Care 34, suppl 1: 6-15, June 2006] Chloroform was widely used by both British and Russian forces.

1866 September 21: Author Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, England. Wells wrote The Time Machine [1895], War of the Worlds [1898] and other classic novels as well as many short stories, essays, and non-fiction works. In his story “Under the Knife,” first included in a collection published in 1897, the narrator undergoes an operation at home. While under chloroform anesthesia, he has a near-death experience. “I do not think I saw. I do not think I heard; but I perceived all that was going on, and it was as if I both heard and saw. Haddon was bending over me, Mowbray behind me; the scalpel…was cutting my flesh…” Wells died on August 13, 1946.

1869 September 17: Physician and famed thesaurus-maker Peter Mark Roget died. In 1799 Roget, just out of medical school, worked in Humphry Davy’s laboratory at the Pneumatic Institute in Clifton, England, where Davy, Dr. Thomas Beddoes, and many others were researching nitrous oxide. Among Roget’s many publications was the biographical entry on Beddoes in an early edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  Roget was born on January 18, 1779, in London.

1873 September 8: French author Alfred Jarry was born; his family background included both nobility and insanity. At age 23 his play Ubu Roi premiered in Paris; its scandalous nature caused a riot. The outrageousness of that play and Jarry’s other writings make him seem the godfather of much 20th century art–from Surrealism to the Marx Brothers and Monty Python. Jarry died of tuberculosis in 1907, after years of addiction to opium, absinthe and ether.

1884 September 15: A colleague of Dr. Carl Koller’s reported to the Heidelberg Congress of Ophthalmology Koller’s successful use of cocaine as a local anesthetic.

1888 September 26: Poet and playwright Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis. One of the great English-language poems of the twentieth-century, Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” was first published in Poetry magazine in June 1915.  Eliot had actually completed the poem several years earlier. This portrait of modern spiritual and emotional paralysis opens with the lines “Let us go then, you and I,/When the evening is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherized upon a table…” The month after its publication, Eliot married Vivien Haigh-Wood, who later became addicted to ether; she died in 1945. Their relationship is depicted in the 1994 film Tom and Viv. Eliot moved to London in 1915, where he died in 1965. Among his other many famous works is the long poem The Waste Land. Eliot won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948.

1889 September 23: English author Wilkie Collins died. Collins wrote such classic novels as The Woman in White [1860] and The Moonstone [1868]. Some of his works, including Man and Wife and The Haunted Hotel, feature non-medical uses of chloroform. Collins was born on January 8, 1824.

1921 September 15: Gordon Stanley Ostlere, English surgeon and anesthesiologist, was born. Under the penname Richard Gordon,  Dr. Ostlere has written, among other novels,  the humorous “Doctor in the House” series of books that have spawned films and television and radio series in Britain. Under his own name he has published Anaesthetics for Medical Students in 1949; the tenth edition appeared as Ostlere and Bryce-Smith’s Anaesthetics for Medical Students in 1989. Dr. Ostlere also authored Anaesthetics and the Patient (1949) and Trichlorethylene Anaesthesia (1953).

1922 September 7: American surgeon William Stewart Halsted died in Baltimore, Maryland. Halsted was one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Medical School, and the first pair of rubber surgical gloves were made under his direction by the Goodyear Rubber Company. He also pioneered many surgical techniques, studied hemostasis and wound healing, and contributed many articles to the medical literature. Along with William H. Welch, William Osler, and Howard Kelly, Halsted is one of “The Four Doctors” in John Singer Sargent’s famous 1905 painting. Halsted was one of the first American surgeons to research cocaine as a local anesthetic and his self-experimentation led to addiction. He was born on September 23, 1852, in New York City. A recent article about Halsted is Markel H.  The accidental addict. N Engl J Med. 2005 Mar 10;352(10):966-8.

1939 September 23: Sigmund Freud died in London at age 83. In the mid-1880s Freud and Carl Koller [see 1884 September 15] studied the physiological effects of cocaine.

1941 September: Thomas Keys, librarian at the Mayo Clinic, began publication of a series of five articles entitled “The Development of Anesthesiology” in the journal Anesthesiology (2:552-574, Sept 1941). This series eventually resulted in Keys’ classic book, The History of Surgical Anesthesia, first published in 1945 and still in print today. Keys was born in 1902 in Greenville, Mississippi. He graduated from the University of Chicago�s Graduate Library School in 1934 and immediately went to work at the Mayo Clinic library. He remained there in various capacities until his retirement in 1972. He authored or co-authored numerous papers related to various aspects of the history of medicine. Keys died in 1995; an obituary can be found in Bull Med Libr Assoc 85(2): 219-220, April 1997 which is here.

1952 September 21: At a medical meeting Dr. Virginia Apgar made the first formal presentation of her newborn scoring system.

1955 September 10: The television western series Gunsmoke premiered on the CBS network. The program lasted until March 1975 and produced 635 episodes. A radio version ran from 1952 until 1961. Since one of the regular characters was a physician, Galen Doc Adams, a number of shows featured medical topics. In Doctors Wife, for instance, Doc Adams and a new physician in town have a spirited debate over the value of Joseph Listers use of carbolic acid spray to fight wound sepsis in surgery. Several episodes have some connection to anesthesia. Laughing Gas[which also appeared in a radio version] features a former gunfighter whose medicine show includes demonstrations of nitrous oxide inhalation. In Gold Train: The Bullet Sheriff Matt Dillon is attacked and wounded with a bullet near his spine. Although at first reluctant, Doc finally decides to operate with saloon owner Kitty Russell as his anesthetist. She is seen dripping the anesthetic liquid from a small bottle onto a mask over Matt’s face before Doc begins surgery. “Miss Kitty” also serves as anesthetist in a surgery scene in “The Pillagers”.  She and Dr. Newly O’Brien are prisoners of an outlaw gang hiding out in an abandoned mine. One shot in the scene shows Kitty using a wire frame mask with gauze and pouring anesthetic from a can.