Chloroform inhaler, 1871-1910.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Junker's chloroform inhaler made by Krohne and Sesemann of London. The first succesful operation on a patient rendered unconscious by anaesthetic was carried out using ether in 1846. Ether was regarded as being safe to use, but it was slow to take its anaesthetic effect as well as being unpredictable with unpleasant side effects. Chloroform was first used by James Simpson (1811-1870) of Edinburgh, to ease the pain of childbirth. His succes led to chloroform becoming preferred to ether as an anaesthetic. Although quicker acting than ether, chloroform's poisonous nature meant it was a more dangerous substance to use. Today both have been superseded by safer, more effective anaesthetics.