First Anaesthetic given in England - 52 Gower Street, London, UK
N 51° 31.276 W 000° 07.871
30U E 699021 N 5711696
Quick Description: Location of the first anaesthetic administered in England.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 5/1/2011 1:34:42 AM
Waymark Code: WMBBHZ
On 19 December 1846, Francis
Boott, an American botanist who had heard the news from Boston, watched dental
surgeon James Robinson administer the first ether anaesthetic in England. Two
days later, Robert Liston operated on Frederick Churchill at University College
Hospital and a medical student, William Squire administered the anaesthetic.
Although many individuals
administered anaesthetic agents in the decade 1835-1845, they were not widely
publicised and did not impact on general medical practice. On 16 October 1846,
at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the first public demonstration of
ether anaesthesia took place. The anaesthetist was William Morton and the
surgeon was John Warren; the operation was the removal of a lump under the jaw
of Gilbert Abbott. Present in the room was another surgeon, Jacob Bigelow, who
wrote a letter to a friend in London which described the process. This letter
was carried on the mailboat SS Arcadia, which docked in Liverpool in
On 19 December 1846 in both
Dumfries and London, ether anaesthetics were given. Few details are available
about the Dumfries anaesthetic, but it is believed that the patient had been run
over by a cart and required an amputation of his leg; it is also believed that
the patient died. In London, at 52 Gower Street, the home of an American
botanist Francis Boott, a dentist named James Robinson removed a tooth of a Miss
Lonsdale under ether anaesthesia. Two days later at University College Hospital,
Robert Liston amputated the leg of a chauffeur, Frederick Churchill, while a
medical student called William Squires gave an ether anaesthetic.
It is difficult to understand
today how major this advance was. Before this, surgery was a terrifying last
resort in a final attempt to save life. Few operations were possible. Surface
surgery, amputation, fungating cancers and ‘cutting for stone’ (the removal of
bladder stones) were really the only areas in which the surgeon could practice.
The inside of the abdomen, chest and skull were essentially ‘no go’ areas. Speed
was the only determinant of a successful surgeon. Most patients were held or
strapped down - some would mercifully faint from their agony - many died either
on the table or immediately post-surgery. The suffering was intense.
Liston, an eminent surgeon,
was once operating for a bladder stone. The panic stricken patient finally broke
loose from the brawny assistants, ran out of the room, down the hall and locked
himself in the lavatory. Liston, hot on his heels and a determined man, broke
down the door and carried the screaming patient back to complete the operative
procedure (Rapier HR. Man against Pain London 1947;49).
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