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Glass ampoule of liquid chloroform, Paris, France, 1845-1945

Chloroform was used as an anaesthetic from the late 1840s until the 1950s. Liquid chloroform was dropped on to a face mask or vaporised and inhaled by the patient through a face mask. The chloroform was prepared by a Parisian pharmacist, A Vicario. Once the potentially toxic nature of this anaesthetic had become apparent, it was used far more cautiously. The vial was owned by Sir James Cantlie (1851-1926), a surgeon and medical administrator whose prestigious career included a leading role in setting up the London School of Tropical Medicine and the provision and training of ambulance services during the First World War.

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    Glossary: ampoule

    A sealed glass or plastic capsule containing one dose of a drug in the form of a sterile solution for injection.

    Glossary: anaesthetic

    An agent that causes insensitivity to pain. Applied to either the whole body (general anaesthetic) or a particular area or region (local anaesthetic).

    Glossary: chloroform

    A liquid formerly used as a general anaesthetic although no longer used for this purpose as it causes liver damage and affects the heart rate. It is now used in low concentration to treat flatulence.

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