1712 March 8: English physician John Fothergill was born in Wensleydale, Yorkshire. Among many other accomplishments, this devout Quaker was the first to accurately describe migraines, and recognized that hardening of the arteries could cause chest pain. In 1744 he published an account of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive the apparently dead. Fothergill was also the first to recognize the symptoms of diphtheria and maintained an extensive botanical garden near Stratford which contained plants from all over the world. He died in London on December 26, 1780.

John Fothergill, M.D. as painted by Gilbert Stuart

1733 March 13: Joseph Priestley was born in England. Among numerous other achievements as a Unitarian minister, author, and chemist, Priestley isolated nitrous oxide in the 1770s. Because of his support of the French and American revolutions, Priestley’s home and laboratory were burned in the Birmingham Riots of July, 1791. In 1794 Priestley sailed for America and settled in Pennsylvania. He died on February 6, 1804, and was buried in Riverview Cemetery in Northumberland. Two recent books about Priestley are Isabel Rivers and David L. Wykes, Joseph Priestley, Scientist, Philosopher, and Theologian [2008], and Steven Johnson, The Invention of Air [2008].


Joseph Priestley by Ellen Sharples, 1794

1750 March 20: Dutch chemist Martinus van Marum was born. From about 1790 to 1808 Van Marum was an active member of the Society of Dutch Chemists which studied gases–including nitrous oxide–and published some 35 papers based on that research. He is best known for the electrostatic machines he built and the discovery of ozone produced by electrical sparks. Van Marum died in Haarlem on December 26, 1837.  For more information, see Defalque RJ, Wright AJ. The Society of Dutch Chemists (1790-1808): Its Contribution to Anesthesia. Anesthesiology 91(3A):A1157, 1999.

1753 March 26: Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, was born in Massachusetts. During his life Thompson was an inventor, spy, government official, diplomat, physicist and philanthropist. Over a number of years he studied and wrote about gunpowder. Thompson was the first to propose what turned out to be the correct idea, that heat is a form of motion, not an invisible liquid known in his day as “caloric.” He invented a photometer, calorimeter, and a new oil lamp. During the Revolution he spied on Americans for the British and naturally moved to England after the war. He was eventually knighted and later made a count. In 1800 he helped found the famed Royal Institution in London and hired a young Humphry Davy to become a lecturer in chemistry there. In March 1801 Davy left Bristol, where he had been experimenting with nitrous oxide and other gases at Thomas Beddoes’ Pneumatic Medical Institution. For a year or two after moving to London, Davy continued to demonstrate the effects of nitrous oxide inhalation at the Royal Institution. The great English satiric artist James Gillrayportrayed such a demonstration in one of his most famous works; both Davy and Rumford are caricatured in the scene. Count Rumford died in 1814, aged 61. You can learn more about Rumford at

1815 March 5: German Physician Franz Mesmer died at Lake Constance in what is now Germany. Mesmer, who was born on May 23, 1734, received his medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1766. Mesmer developed a therapy that he called “animal magnetism” that supposedly used the influence of heavenly bodies on health. His techniques of suggestion were later developed by James Braid (1795-1860) into what we know as hypnotism. Although, “mesmerism” was used for surgical pain relief, especially in England and among the British in India prior to the introduction of Anesthesia in the late 1840’s, it also became widely associated with quackery.

1842 March 30: On this date, Dr. Crawford W. Long–using sulphuric ether–gave the first anesthetic for a surgical procedure–the removal of a tumor on the neck of James Venable in Jefferson, Georgia. This event is the first known administration of a gas for surgical pain relief. Long did not publish an account until 1849. For most of the years since that first anesthetic, Crawford W. Long received little recognition for his accomplishment. In the past two decades some credit has at last been granted for Dr. Long’s role in introducing this important innovation in medicine. Doctor’s Day–March 30– is one tangible and important symbol of the restoration of Dr. Long to his rightful place in history.

1845 March 12: Francis Rynd first introduced fluids into the body by subcutaneous injections using a hypodermic syringe.

1847 March: French physiologist Marie Jean Pierre Flourens [1794-1867] determined that inhalation of chloroform caused the same temporary state in animals as did ether. Flourens is best known for proving that the respiratory center is in the medulla and the function of the cerebellum in muscular coordination; he also studied bone formation. He was a professor at the College de France for many years. In November 1847 Scottish physician James Young Simpson demonstrated the anesthetic properties of chloroform in humans.

1847 March 11:  Less than six months after William Morton’s demonstration of ether anesthesia in Boston, the first ether anesthetic was administered in Latin America. Dr. Vincente Antonio de Castro, a surgeon at the Hospital San Juan de Dios in Havana, Cuba, performs a successful bilateral hydrocele on the anesthetized patient.

1850 March 30: The first issue of Household Words appeared in England. This publication was the first of two weekly newspapers Charles Dickens would edit. The author used Household Words to call attention to a number of social ills, and his novel Hard Times was first serialized in its pages. The paper lasted until 1859. In 1851 an issue included Percival Leighs Some Account of Chloroform [3: 151-155]. The publication of this essay may have reflected Dickens concerns about amputation and other surgical procedures; characters with wooden legs appear in many of his novels.

1852 March 26:  “On this day  Dr. William Mallett of Fayetteville, North Carolina,  performed one of the first Cesarean sections in the southern United States where the mother survived. In most instances, the mother generally died of shock as a result of the surgery. Dr. Mallett performed the operation on a 17-year-old woman without the use of anesthesia. The mother had refused the use of chloroform and ether for religious reasons. Her child did not survive.” Dr. Mallett, born in 1819, died in 1889 [Source: Powell WS, ed. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography; for more about religious objections to anesthesia, see Swanson GA. The Religious Objections and Military Opposition to Anesthetics, 1846-1848. Bulletin of Anesthesia History 23(2): 1, 4-5, 14, April 2005]

1898 March: At a meeting of the Society of Anaesthetists in England Alfred Coleman described his technique for nasal administration of nitrous oxide and Stephen A. Coxon advocated continuous insufflation of pure nitrous oxide into the pharynx.

1909 March 24: John Millington Synge, Irish dramatist and poet [Riders to the Sea, etc.] died. He was born April 16, 1871.  In 1916 a fascinating account of his experiences under ether anesthesia was published posthumously: “I seemed to traverse whole epochs of desolation and bliss. All secrets were open before me….” he wrote.  [Under ether. Personal experiences during an operation. Interstate Medical Journal 23:45-49, 1916]. Synge’s account is part of a large body of literature related to anesthesia and mystical experiences.

1930 March 23: Russian surgeon Sergei Yudin performed the first transfusion of cadaver blood into a human.

1934 March 8: In Wisconsin, Ralph M. Waters administered the first use of thiopental in man.


Ralph M. Waters, M.D.
[Source: ]

1937 March 15: First blood bank was established in Chicago, Illinois.

1939 March 5: British actress Samantha Eggar was born in London. One of her earliest prominent film roles was Miranda Grey in the 1965 version of John Fowles’ novel The Collector.  That 1963 novel tells the story of Frederick Clegg, a meek clerk and butterfly collector who decides to elevate his collecting and kidnaps beautiful art student  Grey as she is walking home from class. Clegg uses a rag soaked in chloroform to subdue her. The film version also featured Terence Stamp as Clegg.  Both novel and film have extended scenes of the criminal use of chloroform.  [For more information on such real-life uses of chloroform, see Payne JP. The criminal use of chloroform. Anaesthesia. 1998 Jul;53(7):685-90]

1942 March 2: American author John Irving was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. His novels include< The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire. His 1985 novel The Cider House Rules is set in a Maine orphanage presided over by the kindly ether-addict Dr. Larch.

1948 March 8: The Alabama State Society of Anesthesiologists was founded by Drs. Alice McNeal, Hiram Elliott, Alfred Habeeb and E. Bryce Robinson, Jr., in Birmingham. Dr. Robinson was elected President, Dr. William May of Montgomery, Vice-President, and Dr. McNeal Secretary-Treasurer. Dr. Robinson was appointed Delegate and Dr. May, Alternate. [ASA Newsletter 12(5):7, May 1948] �Dr. Hiram Elliott recalled how the little group gave birth to organized anesthesiology in the state. �We got together�the four of us, Dr. McNeal, Dr. Robinson, Dr. Habeeb and I�at Dr. Robinson�s house one night, and we organized the Jefferson County Society of Anesthesiologists,� said Elliott. �At the same time, we decided we might as well organize the State Society of Anesthesiologists. So we organized both of them that same night.�� [Anita Smith, The Boss: Lloyd Noland, M.D., 1986, p. 260] The application for a charter by the state society was approved by the ASA on May 4, 1948. [ASA Newsletter 12(6):3, June 1948] Dr. McNeal was Chief of Anesthesia in the of Surgery, University of Alabama School of Medicine; the others were anesthesiologists in private practice. Dr. McNeal was the first female anesthesiologist to practice in Alabama. Dr. Habeeb completed the first anesthesia residency in Alabama, at the urging of Dr. Lloyd Noland at the TCI Hospital in Fairfield in the late 1930s. Dr. Habeeb was also the first ABA Diplomate in Alabama.