From Agony to Anesthesia From Agony to Anesthesia The Cure for Pain: A Brief Chronology By Shirley Fishman, Dramaturg, La Jolla Playhouse “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.” Genesis II:21 550 B.C.E.Sasruta, father of Indian surgery, uses herbs for pain relief. 79 A.D.Pliny the Elder gives wine to surgery patients “before the cutting, cauterizing, pricking or lancing of any member, to take away the sence and feeling of such extreame cures.” 1200The soporific sponge (also known as the “sleeping sponge”), first used in Italy and Bavaria, induces sleep prior to surgery when steeped in a mixture of opium, mulberry juice, lettuce, hemlock, wine ivy. When dry, it emits a vapor inhaled by surgical patients. 1275Sweet vitriol, the first organic molecule of ether, is created in Spain by Dr. Raymond Lullus by pouring sulfuric acid on alcohol, which is then re-distilled. 1564Local anesthesia is produced by compression of nerves in Italy and France. 1646Frozen mixtures of snow and ice are used for surgical anesthesia in Italy. 1730“Sweet vitriol” renamed “ether” (Greek for “heavenly.”) 1766Viennese physician Franz Anton Mesmer develops “mesmerism,” later called hypnosis. 1771Chemist Joseph Priestly discovers oxygen and nitrous oxide in England. 1798Sir Humphry Davy discovers analgesic effects of nitrous oxide. It made him laugh when he inhaled it. 1799Thomas Beddoes’ Pneumatic Institute established for the study of inhalation gases. Davy introduces nitrous oxide into the Institute’s medical practice. 1806Morphine extracted from opium in Prussia. 1815Painless operations via somnambulism conducted in Germany. 1831Discovery of chloroform in U.S. 1842Crawford Williamson Long administers ether to a patient. Painlessly removes small tumors from his neck. 1843Injection of morphine solution in area of pain affords relief. 1844Gardner Quincy Colton administers nitrous oxide to Horace Wells. 1845Horace Wells unsuccessfully demonstrates use of nitrous oxide in tooth extraction pain relief for Dr. John C. Warren’s class at Massachusetts General Hospital. 1846Dr. Charles T. Jackson suggests use of pure ether to William T. G. Morton as anesthetic for his wife’s tooth pain. October 16, 1846William T. G. Morton successfully demonstrates ether anesthesia in operation performed by Dr. John C. Warren at dome at Massachusetts General Hospital. 1853Chloroform administered to Queen Victoria during childbirth. Invention of metallic hollow needle leads to development of the hypodermic syringe. 1860Cocaine extracted from coca leaves. 1905Development of novocaine. All photos courtesy of the University of Connecticut Medical Library.