Stained glass window showing James Young Simpson, Europe, 1885-1985
From the home of a North London physician, this stained glass window reputedly shows the portrait of Sir James Young Simpson (1811-70). Simpson is credited with the introduction of chloroform as an anaesthetic in Britain. Traditionally, the story of the discovery involves Simpson and his assistants experimenting on themselves by putting each other to sleep. Simpson gave chloroform to mothers during childbirth in 1847 and its use in obstetrics was given a big boost when Queen Victoria used it during the birth of her son Leopold in 1853. (The anaesthetist on that occasion was John Snow.) However, once the potentially toxic nature of chloroform had become fully realised over time, it was used far more cautiously.
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Glossary: stained glass window
An agent that causes insensitivity to pain. Applied to either the whole body (general anaesthetic) or a particular area or region (local anaesthetic).
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.