Surgery before and after the discovery of anesthesia

William Silen, Elizabeth A.M. Frost

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Long before the advent of anesthesia, operations relied on a detailed knowledge of anatomy gained by dissection of the dead. Morton's demonstration of ether anesthesia on 16 Oct 1846 made planned surgery possible, that is surgery in a silent motionless patient. Thus began the era of the great surgeons of Europe (Billroth, Kocher, Torek) and the US (Sims, Halsted, Cushing). Supporting discoveries added to the advances: Lister used antisepsis with carbolic acid spray (1867); Macewen intubated the trachea (1870s); Roentgen discovered X-rays (1895); Landsteiner identified blood groups (1900) and Domagk synthesized sulfonamides (1932).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wondrous Story of Anesthesia
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781461484417
ISBN (Print)1461484405, 9781461484400
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2014


  • Anesthesia and history of surgery
  • Antisepsis in surgery, history
  • Billroth, surgeon
  • History of surgery
  • Roentgen and the discovery of X-rays
  • Surgery before anesthesia


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